Facebook faces a potential bill for $2bn in compensation and a further $2bn in damages, as its lawsuit with ZeniMax over Oculus goes to jury. The long-awaited lawsuit finally reached closing arguments today in Dallas, TX, with ZeniMax’s lawyer suggesting a $4bn payout from Facebook was in order. According to the company, Oculus relied heavily on – but refuses to acknowledge or pay for – the input John Carmack.
According to Oculus – and now Facebook – it was co-founder Palmer Luckey who was the brains behind the company’s virtual reality headset. As ZeniMax sees it, though, Carmack – widely-known in the gaming industry for co-founding id Software, perhaps most notorious for “Doom” – was instrumental in the development of the Rift.
Speaking to the jury, ZeniMax attorney Anthony Sammi argued that Luckey is in fact a “hobbyist” rather than any sort of software expert. Instead of being responsible for Rift, he suggested, it was left to engineers within Oculus. They, in turn, relied heavily on discussions with John Carmack, as well as work that had already been carried out on the ZeniMax Rage VR testbed and the “Doom BFG Edition” demo.
Questioned on the stand earlier in the trial, Luckey had protested ZeniMax’s claims that both of those were covered by an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) he was subject to. Rather, he countered, they were in the public domain. Back in 2014, Oculus was insistent that none of ZeniMax’s code was to be found in its own software.
Not so, according to Sammi’s argument. The lawyer pointed out that, if the technology was indeed so widely available, then it wouldn’t have just been Oculus that picked it up. Meanwhile, he highlighted the ostensibly suspicious wiping of computers that might have unlocked significant evidence, just before they were imaged for the court case.
As Sammi sees it, not only is ZeniMax eligible for the $2bn of punitive damages that has been the company’s goal all along, but compensation as well. That figure, he suggested, could be the equal of the damages. Facebook’s deep pockets, Sammi pointed out, warranted such a scale.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook’s legal team didn’t agree. Oculus attorney Beth Wilkinson countered that ZeniMax had missed the boat on VR, and that rather than being some sort of ahead-of-its-time developer of the technology, had in fact been myopically focused on AAA games. Indeed, Wilkinson pointed out, ZeniMax execs had advised distancing id Software from Oculus altogether, on the assumption that it was likely to fail.
History tells a different story, of course, with Facebook splashing out $2bn in an unexpected grab of Oculus back in 2014. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stand as part of the lawsuit, where he was questioned around what was portrayed as a rushed acquisition. The jury is expected to deliberate into next week.