The two-year long court battle between Oculus VR and ZeniMax Media has come to an end today. It’s been a heated battle throughout, with many high-profile executives taking the stand during testimony. This includes Facebook founder (and now Oculus owner) Mark Zuckerberg, Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey, and id Software founder John Carmack.
The Texas jury deciding the case has determined that Palmer Luckey broke a non-disclosure agreement with ZeniMax media. The penalty for breaking that NDA is pretty severe, as ZeniMax will be awarded $500 million. That’s a significant amount of money, but it’s nowhere near the $4 billion in compensation and damages that ZeniMax was looking for in this case.
However, while it’s hard to contend that this is a favorable ruling for Oculus, there is a silver lining. The jury also found that Oculus didn’t misappropriate trade secrets, which is what ZeniMax has been accusing it of from the start. That may not mean much when that same jury also decided to award ZeniMax $500 million, but it certainly means something, and it could play a role if Oculus and Facebook decide to appeal.
John Carmack has been at the center of this legal tussle from the beginning. Once upon a time, Carmack was an employee of ZeniMax, after it purchased his game studio id Software. In August 2013, he joined Oculus VR as their CTO, and that certainly caught the attention of ZeniMax.
The company (which also owns Elder Scroll developer Bethesda) contended that Luckey couldn’t have developed Oculus hardware and software on his own, and that Carmack had supplied Oculus VR with technology – the misappropriated trade secrets – before he was named CTO.
So, what happens from here? Oculus and Facebook will almost certainly appeal the ruling, because even for Facebook, $500 million is a lot to pay over a broken NDA. Beyond that safe bet, though, there are still a lot of unknowns at this point, so stay tuned for more.