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Activision, Valve tangle over 2002 lawsuit

Half-Life developer sues Sierra parent company for skimping on arbitrator-assigned multimillion-dollar settlement over royalty rights.


In the game industry, sometimes it feels like lawsuits have a half-life on par with carbon-14. So it is with a 2002 dispute between Valve and former publisher Sierra Entertainment over the latter company's unauthorized licensing of games such as Half-Life to cyber cafes around the world.

Can't we all just get along?
Can't we all just get along?

The Valve-Vivendi dispute yielded three years of claims and counter-claims until the pair finally reached a settlement in 2005. The subsequent agreement called for an arbitration process that itself dragged out until earlier this month, when the arbitrator said that Valve was owed nearly $2.4 million in back royalties. That sum was to be paid by Activision in light of the publisher's merger with Sierra parent Vivendi Games, finalized last July.

As reported by GamePolitics, Valve has filed suit this week in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington, claiming that Activision declined to pay out the whole award. Specifically, the Half-Life 2 developer claimed that the Guitar Hero publisher is withholding some $424,000 of the payment, saying that it previously overpaid royalties to the studio.

Valve also said that Activision threatened to file a separate suit seeking that aforementioned overpayment money if the publisher's short-changing on the arbitration award was challenged in court. The developer is asking a judge to force Activision to pay up the remaining amount, with 1 percent-per-month compound interest tacked on, as well as attorney's fees. Valve is also seeking a declaration that Activision may not sue to retrieve its alleged royalty overpayment in the future.

Activision has been involved with numerous lawsuits as of late. The past several years have seen the massive publisher cross legal swords with THQ, Harmonix, Viacom, guitar maker Gibson, Turning Point developer Spark Unlimited, a few former RedOctane employees, some of its shareholders, and several irate customers.

As of press time, representatives with Valve and Activision had not returned GameSpot's request for comment.

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