Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stand in a Texas courtroom yesterday to defend Facebook-owned virtual reality (VR) company Oculus, telling the world that consumer-grade VR isn’t “fully there yet.”
This admission comes just as Zuckerberg and his company are trying to fend off a lawsuit from ZeniMax. ZeniMax sued Oculus, alleging that Oculus committed copyright infringement and trade secret theft.
“We are highly confident that Oculus products are built on Oculus technology,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in court.
Zuckerberg’s statement is nothing surprising for the tech giant, which purchased Oculus for just over $2 billion in 2014.
Facebook’s 10-year plan, announced in April, lays out a sustainable, long-term vision for the future of Facebook and its subsidiaries. Facebook will focus efforts on expanding the social platform to create a stable base with a strong ecosystem within the next three years. As a five-year goal, the company plans to then focus on development of its products, such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Video, and several other items.
Additionally, Facebook is hoping for integration with artificial intelligence (AI) development and widespread adoption of usable augmented and virtual reality platforms.
Along those lines, and considering the trailblazing nature of Oculus’ technology, the allegations made by ZeniMax would represent a serious technological heist, if proven to be true.
The case stems from the alleged misconduct of Oculus CTO John Carmack, according to The Verge, accused of taking advantage of an early Oculus-ZeniMax partnership in his previous job as a Lead Programmer at ZeniMax.
In 2012, when Oculus was a Kickstarter darling, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey started a casual friendship with then-ZeniMax employee John Carmack. Carmack created demos inside the ZeniMax-owned video game Doom 3 for the Oculus Rift headset.
These demos, and the technology behind them, were the result of an informal agreement between Oculus and ZeniMax, one which would later grow to the point that Luckey was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the technology.
According to ZeniMax, upon leaving the company in 2013 to become CTO of Oculus, Carmack brought with him technologies that were proprietary to ZeniMax and claimed that he then used that technology to aid in the development of Oculus Rift hardware and software.
It is unknown at this point exactly how much of the code of the Doom 3 demo may have made it into later versions of the Rift, or any other technical demos produced by the company, but the escalation of the case into a jury trial has come as a surprise to many.
Communication from ZeniMax regarding potential IP theft allegedly began only two weeks after the announcement of Oculus’ acquisition by Facebook, with suit filed two months later.
“It is pretty common when you announce a big deal or do something that all kinds of people just kind of come out of the woodwork and claim that they own some portion of the deal,” Zuckerberg told the court.
Nevertheless, it is not every day that Mark Zuckerberg appears in a courtroom. This battle could be riveting.