Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been in court this week facing allegations of the VR software Oculus being the intellectual property of a rival company.
2017 has been set to be the year of virtual reality hitting the mainstream, with Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus being announced toward the end of 2016 and other Virtual Reality software becoming affordable, such as HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR. However, in a highly publicised trial starting on January the 9th, Mark Zuckerberg has faced allegations that Oculus stole the tech for its Rift headset and other ideas from rival company ZeniMax.
The wheels were set in motion for Facebook to acquire Oculus in 2014, when they paid an alleged $2billion for the software, and the case was opened around that time. It has been running for over two years, with various gaming and tech industry legends being called into question.
Zuckerberg alleges that the total cost of the Oculus acquisition was much higher, given the retention of staff and other costs. In the Dallas court room, Zuckerberg claimed to have “never even heard of ZeniMax” whose case rest on the implication that their intellectual property was stolen by a member of the Oculus team.
Who are ZeniMax?
Never heard of ZeniMax either? Trading as ZeniMax Media, the games publisher is behind developers Bethesda, Arkane, and id Software. Since 2014, the company have claimed that Oculus was derived from their software plans and last August saw the implication of gaming icon John Carmack, famous for creating Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake. ZeniMax claim that he stole ideas and documents which helped create Oculus’ Rift headset, amongst other allegations. Now the Chief tech officer for Oculus, Carmack previously worked for ZeniMax, who have accused him of directly stealing data and intellectual property before leaving. Their claims in 2016 allege that this breaches confidentiality clauses signed upon working for the company. The alleged theft was referred to as “one of the biggest technology heists ever” by Tony Sammi, ZeniMax’s legal representative.
Where is the case now?
Expected to last three weeks, the trial continues throughout January. One of Sammi’s claims is that the software idea was not even completed when Carmack stole it. However, he argues, that simply improving on something does not give you the right to own it outright. This poses some difficult questions surrounding IP rights and is proving to be difficult to reach an agreement over. Having been continuing for some two years, this case is complicated and is the type of legal battle that may require arbitration services such as those provided by Withers LLP, to settle.
What is Oculus Rift?
Oculus Rift is a headset, which offers viewers a range of virtual reality experiences, including a descent into hell, accompanied by a thrash metal soundtrack. Since its release, other tech giants have rivalled it with VR software.
How is VR being used?
Zuckerberg told jurors of how he envisaged VR going forward. He’d recently used technology to capture his daughter’s first steps and forecast this to his parents. Facebook plans to incorporate Virtual Reality to enhance communications within its video options, so people can broadcast their special moments with as much detail, almost as if viewers were actually part of the moment present.
The case has yet to reach a conclusion.