Damages Sought in Oculus Fight Doubles to $4B

DALLAS (CN) – Attorneys for video game publisher ZeniMax asked a Dallas federal jury to give it $4 billion during closing arguments Thursday in its case claiming Facebook’s virtual reality subsidiary stole its headset technology.

The request doubles the $2 billion the Rockville, Md.-based company originally asked for. ZeniMax and subsidiary id Software, of Richardson, Texas, sued Oculus VR and founder Palmer Luckey in May 2013, two months after Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion.

ZeniMax claims Oculus and Luckey violated a nondisclosure agreement in the creation of the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset and that Luckey relied on the help of id Software employees during Rift’s development.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified last week the final purchase price for Oculus was $3 billion, as additional payments were made to keep key employees and for performance bonuses. Oculus’ owners were reluctant to sell at first, having valued the company at $4 billion, Zuckerberg said.

ZeniMax’s attorney Tony Sammi, with Skadden Arps in New York, told jurors that Luckey was only a hobbyist and not a software expert. He said id Software co-founder John Carmack, who conversed with Luckey during development, was vital to what makes Rift a desirable virtual reality experience, Polygon.com reported.

Carmack is best known as lead programmer of id Software’s hit first-person shooter games Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake. In 2013, he became chief technology officer at Oculus.

Sammi told jurors the final functionality of Oculus’ code came from Carmack and ZeniMax’s Rage VR testbed and Doom 3 BFG Edition, in violation of Luckey’s nondisclosure agreement. He asked for $2 billion in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages, citing Facebook’s high net worth.

Defense attorney Beth Wilkinson, with Wilkinson Walsh in Washington, told jurors ZeniMax and id Software are jealous, angry and embarrassed. She said this is a case of “sour grapes.”

Wilkinson cited testimony by a forensics expert that there was no evidence of copying in Oculus’ code, as well as testimony by Carmack that Oculus never received actual source code for either the Rage VR testbed or Doom 3 BFG Edition.

During a combative direct examination last week, Luckey testified that he did not violate the nondisclosure agreement. He said that when he demonstrated his headset to investors in 2014, he executed the plaintiffs’ code through the headset but did not take the source code itself.

The jury is expected to deliberate for several days.