How Did Facebook "Steal" VR Technology from ZeniMax Media?

Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Gaming Zenimax Facebook Court Case 2017
The high profile case has re-ignited long standing tension between the two companies. (image via oculus.com)

What are the details behind this stolen VR technology?

ZeniMax originally made its claim that the Oculus Rift used stolen technology in 2014, around the time Facebook announced its multi-billion dollar acquisition of the Pioneering Virtual reality company. The case ultimately revolved around the accusation by ZeniMax that John Carmack, the current CTO at Oculus stole code during his time at ID software that was used to help develop the Oculus Rift.

While the expert testimony that was the cornerstone of the case remains unpublished, ZeniMax issued the following statement following the announcement of the Jury’s decision:

“In addition to expert testimony finding both literal and non-literal copying, Oculus programmers themselves admitted using ZeniMax’s copyrighted code (one saying he cut and pasted it into the Oculus SDK), and [Oculus VR co-founder] Brendan Iribe, in writing, requested a license for the 'source code shared by Carmack' they needed for the Oculus Rift. Not surprisingly, the jury found ZeniMax code copyrights were infringed. The Oculus Rift was built on a foundation of ZeniMax technology”

A Dallas, Texas jury awarded 500 million dollars to ZeniMax after finding that Oculus Co-Founder Palmer Luckey breached a non-disclosure agreement signed during his time at ID software, a subsidiary of the acclaimed publisher behind the Elder Scrolls Franchinse.

What was actually stolen?

Here is where things get interesting.

On the one hand, while the court did find that Palmer violated a ZeniMax non-disclosure agreement during the early days of its development, it did rule partially in favor of Oculus in that it cleared them of using any stolen technology or code to create the Oculus Rift. What this means is that while the Oculus Rift is not build using strictly stolen technology, Oculus has been found liable for trademark infringement regarding misuse of ZeniMax Code and Logos.

In addition, the company as well as Palmer and former Oculus CEO Brendon Iribe were found liable for false designation for misuse of trademarks belonging to ZeniMax.

Why is the technology important and what is it used for?

While no longer the sole pioneer of PC powered virtual reality tech with Google offering its own VR solution and the new partnership between Steam and HTC. The Oculus Rift was really the first major VR breakthrough aimed at taking digital immersion to a whole new level.

However since the acquisition of Oculus by Facebook, the company has demonstrated a whole new range of uses for immersive VR that are set to take our online social interactions, or something as simple as watching films with your friends to a whole new level. When Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014, Zuckerberg had this to say:

“Oculus's mission is to enable you to experience the impossible. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences.”

Just what kind of experiences those are going to be following this court’s ruling against Oculus remains to be seen.

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