Facebook Loses $500 Million Virtual Reality Headset Verdict

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Facebook Inc. and its co-defendants were ordered to pay $500 million to ZeniMax Media Inc. after a jury found the social network’s Oculus VR unit unfairly used ZeniMax code to build a virtual reality headset Bllomber Technology reports.

The verdict in Dallas federal court is a rebuke to Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, who isn’t a defendant but who told jurors in his first-ever courtroom testimony that it was important for him to be there because the claims by ZeniMax were “false.” An Oculus spokeswoman said the company will appeal.

According to Bloomberg Technology, Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus gave it a head start against Microsoft Corp., Sony Corp., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and others competing for a piece of the virtual reality market that’s forecast to exceed $84 billion in sales in 2020. Facebook began shipping the ski-goggle-like Rift for $599 in March.

The case centered around the defection of video-game programmer John Carmack from ZeniMax, where he had designed blockbuster games Doom and Quake, to Oculus, where he was named chief technology officer in 2013. He acknowledged in testimony that he took with him e-mail records including computer code related to virtual reality.

ZeniMax said in a statement that while it regrets having to go to litigate to vindicate its rights, “it was necessary to take a stand against companies that engage in illegal activity in their desire to get control of new, valuable technology.”

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