A long-running feud between Facebook (owners of the Oculus Rift) and Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax, reached a head on Monday, as a jury awarded $500 million in damages to ZeniMax. Though ZeniMax sought $2 billion in total damages, and the $500 million is unlikely to make a dent in Facebook’s capital, which stood at roughly $34 billion as of the end of 2016, nonetheless, the case deals a serious PR blow to an already embattled company.
By all accounts, the Oculus Rift should have had a stellar year, heralding a new age in VR technology, and being the first to market comes with perks unimaginable…then pre-orders were delayed, some months at a time. Palmer Luckey couldn’t keep his mouth shut on Reddit, he was embroiled in a PR and political disaster that saw him anonymously funding shitposts and racist memes about Donald Trump. This caused Luckey to all but disappear, but not before several game studios decided to no longer release products on the Rift.
It’s certainly not a great year at all for the Rift, now the judgement in a lawsuit by ZeniMax, which alleges, among other things, violation of non-disclosure agreements, trademark and copyright infringements, and more. The jury ultimately ordered Oculus to pay $200 million for violating a non-disclosure agreement and $50 million for copyright infringement. The remaining $250 million will be paid by Oculus cofounders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe, and Oculus itself for the misuse of ZeniMax trademarks.
The bulk of the verdict, which saw ZeniMax accuse Doom creator John Carmack of stealing trade secrets from ZeniMax for use in the Oculus technology, was not handed down by the jury. Despite this ruling, ZeniMax also accused Luckey of lying to the press at-large about the history of the Oculus technology, which he shared in a feature story with FORBES back in 2015. Facebook’s stock prices in after-hours trading seemed virtually unaffected by the news, suggesting that the case may not have as much of an impact as far as regular earnings are concerned.
As if all this legal fun wasn’t enough, ZeniMax is looking to add insult to injury by seeking an injunction on the sale of the Rift headset, according to an article from gamesindustry.biz, ZeniMax Chairman and CEO Robert Altman said 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 copyrights.”
It’s hard to know what this means for the future of the Rift headset, if anything, as the ruling is only a few hours old, the effects will likely be felt in the months to come, not days. Regardless, we’ll be here to parse out the fighting between ZeniMax and the accused as it continues to unfold.