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ZeniMax and Facebook settle Oculus legal battle

Over four years in the making, ZeniMax Media’s legal rumble with Oculus and Facebook over Oculus Rift VR cybergoggles has finally ended in a settlement. They had gone through the courts, where a jury initially ruled that Facebook owed ZeniMax $500 million dollars, then a judge later reduced that, and the bickering continued. Their related battle with John Carmack ended in October, and now the war with Facebook seems to finally be over. ZeniMax say the terms of the settlement are confidential, though they seem chuffed so they might have got a wodge of wonga.

“We are pleased that a settlement has been reached and are fully satisfied by the outcome,” ZeniMax CEO Robert Altman said in today’s announcement. “While we dislike litigation, we will always vigorously defend against any infringement or misappropriation of our intellectual property by third parties.”

Their claims stemmed from back when John Carmack was still at Id Software, which ZeniMax own as well as Bethesda and a number of other studios, and was big into VR. Carmack tinkered with early Rift prototypes, and eventually left Id to join Oculus. ZeniMax claimed that work on the Rift by Carmack and other Id folks in those early days was fundamental to the headset’s development, and was work they owned. Carmack had “illegally copied thousands of documents” containing confidential ZeniMax property, they claimed, and allegedly had returned after leaving to copy a VR tool Id customised. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey had broken an NDA covering Oculus’s work with Id too, they said.

They even disputed Luckey’s reputation as the developer of the Rift, saying he “increasingly and falsely held himself out to the media and the public as the visionary developer of the Rift’s VR technology, which had actually been developed by ZeniMax without any substantial contribution from Luckey.”

ZeniMax’s legal posturing began in 2014, shortly after Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion, and in 2017 finally reached the end of a jury trial ruling that Oculus/Facebook owed them $500,000,000 (£400 million). These damages were halved to $250,000,000 (£200m) on appeal and a judge denied ZeniMax’s request to block Oculus from selling Rift goggs. This was of course not the end, with both sides appealing further. Now, maybe it’s the end?

With the settlement “confidential” and Facebook apparently not revealing it in any financial filings (yet?), we don’t know how it shook out. Did ZeniMax get less than that $250m? More? Are they saving face by saying it turned out grand? MYSTERIES.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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