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Oculus on the skids as injunction looms

by on24 February 2017

Oculus going to be forced to make a settlement or suffer

Oculus could find itself in serious hot water as video game publisher ZeniMax Media which has won a $500 million verdict against it for unauthorised copying of computer code, has asked a federal judge to block Oculus from using the code in its products.

ZeniMax made its request for an injunction in papers filed yesterday in a federal court in Dallas. It was the same court where jurors issued the verdict against Oculus and its founders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe.

Tera Randall, a spokeswoman for Oculus, said the company was continuing with its plan to ask the judge to set aside the verdict, which she called "legally flawed and factually unwarranted".

However if the injunction goes ahead it could limit the number of games available for sale for Oculus' Rift VR headset. This is exactly what the company does not want right now as getting content on the gear is crucial for its success.

Oculus has already made the disputed code available to companies that develop games, and it is embedded in many of the games available for use on the Rift, as well as Samsung Electronics Gear VR, a smartphone-compatible device developed through a partnership with Oculus.

However it is more likely that any injunction is designed to squeeze even more money from Facebook which owns Oculus which would be forced to come to a settlement.

The litigation stemmed from Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey's 2012 correspondence with video game designer John Carmack, well-known for creating the Doom series.

Carmack, who at the time was employed by a ZeniMax subsidiary, subsequently agreed to help develop software for the Rift. In 2013 he left ZeniMax and joined Oculus as its chief technology officer.

ZeniMax sued Oculus in 2014, less than two months after Facebook paid $3 billion for the start-up, claiming Carmack developed crucial Rift technology while he was a ZeniMax employee. ZeniMax also argued that Luckey breached a non-disclosure agreement.

The case culminated in a three-week trial in which ZeniMax sought $6 billion in damages. Jurors rejected a claim by ZeniMax that its trade secrets were stolen, but it found that Oculus used the copyrighted code without permission and violated the non-disclosure agreement.

Last modified on 24 February 2017
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