Earlier this month, ZeniMax won a $US500 ($651) million lawsuit against Oculus and its parent company Facebook. The court ruled that the VR headset manufacturer had indeed violated the company’s copyrights and a non-disclosure agreement. That half a billion looks like it wasn’t enough because ZeniMax wants blood. It has now filed an injunction demanding all products using the infringing code be removed from sale.
Photo: Sergey Galyonkin/Flickr
The original lawsuit asked for $US2 ($3) billion. While the jury decided that Oculus had indeed violated ZeniMax’s copyrights and a non-disclosure agreement, it was not convinced that any misappropriation of trade secrets had occurred. At the time, an Oculus spokesperson told Gizmodo that it would appeal the decision: “The heart of this case was about whether Oculus stole ZeniMax’s trade secrets, and the jury found decisively in our favour. We’re obviously disappointed by a few other aspects of today’s verdict, but we are undeterred.”
According to Upload VR, the filing demands that Oculus be:
“…permanently enjoined, on a worldwide basis, from using…any of the Copyrighted Materials, including but not limited to (i) system software for Oculus PC (including the Oculus PC SDK); (ii) system software for Oculus Mobile (including the Oculus Mobile SDK); (iii) Oculus integration with the Epic Games Unreal Engine; and (iv) Oculus integration with the Unity Technologies Unity Game Engine.”
It’s unclear if the injunction would apply to Oculus hardware but, of course, the headsets wouldn’t be particularly useful without software. In a statement, Facebook called the lawsuit “legally flawed and factually unwarranted.”
Speaking to Ars Technica, Joshua Rich, a partner at IP law firm McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP, seems to agree:
“Had they prevailed on the trade secrets claim, [ZeniMax] would have been in an extremely strong position for an injunction,” Rich said. “Here, I think it’s a relatively weak argument.”
The best ZeniMax can really hope for, according to Rich, is to force Oculus to replace any underlying code that is “overly similar” to the code Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey received under NDA. This would probably require using a new programming team in a “clean room” environment, with no access to or knowledge of the code Carmack created.
That would certainly be a headache for Oculus but it would be better than no sales at all. The company has had a rough ride over the last year and demand for the headsets is reportedly not very high from early adopters.
No matter what the outcome, it’s not good for Facebook that it will now have to fight this litigation while continuing to appeal the original judgement. The social media company’s execs have maintained that they’re playing a long game with their VR plans. One speed bump after another has assured that will be the case.