A US jury has ordered Facebook and creators of its Oculus Rift to pay $500 million to gaming software firm ZeniMax in a lawsuit that claimed the virtual reality technology was stolen. The Texas jury made the award yesterday in a trial in which Oculus was accused of basing its Rift headset on technology stolen from ZeniMax’s virtual reality software, court documents showed.
The lawsuit claimed Oculus founder Palmer Luckey and his colleagues developed the virtual reality gear using source code illegally obtained from the gaming firm. Luckey was ordered to pay USD 50 million of the award and another former Oculus executive, Brendan Iribe USD 150 million. The two executives were accused of violating a non-disclosure agreement with ZeniMax and copying the source code and other documents on a USB storage device. ZeniMax had sought USD 4 billion in damages in the case, in which Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg testified to defend his company.
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Maryland-based ZeniMax said it was “pleased” about the award for “unlawful infringement of our copyrights and trademarks, and for the violation of our non-disclosure agreement with Oculus pursuant to which we shared breakthrough VR technology that we had developed and that we exclusively own.” Robert Altman, ZeniMax’s chairman and chief executive, said in the statement: “Technology is the foundation of our business and we consider the theft of our intellectual property to be a serious matter.”
Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014 for more than USD 2 billion and last year began selling the Rift headsets as part of the social network’s push into virtual reality. According to the ZeniMax allegations, the four founders of Oculus had no expertise or backgrounds in VR other than Palmer Luckey. But ZeniMax said Luckey “could not code the software that was the key to solving the issues of VR.”
The ZeniMax statement added that “we will consider what further steps we need to take to ensure there will be no ongoing use of our misappropriated technology, including by seeking an injunction to restrain Oculus and Facebook from their ongoing use of computer code that the jury found infringed ZeniMax’s’s copyrights.” The news came as Facebook was releasing its earnings for the fourth quarter.
Zuckerberg, in his opening statement to analysts, sad Facebook would “keep making big investments in VR content, and I am excited about what is coming in 2017 from games to more immersive experiences.”