Facebook Inc. has asked a federal judge in Texas to grant it permission to continue to sell virtual reality headsets from Oculus, the company it acquired in 2014 for $2 billion.
According to media reports, the social media giant argued in a court filing earlier this week that it should be allowed to continue to sell the headsets, which go for $600, despite a request by ZeniMax Media for the court to block the sales of the devices.
In February, ZeniMax asked a court in Dallas to stop Oculus from using or distributing its software code in a development kit the Facebook-owned company gives game makers. The request came in the same month a jury awarded ZeniMax $500 million, determining that Oculus and its co-founders, Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe, infringed on ZeniMax’s copyrighted code. The jury found the VR headset maker also violated a non-disclosure agreement.
Starting From Scratch?
The social media network operator argued in the filing that banning the sale of the virtual reality headsets would put a hardship on Oculus and its business partners and customers that is unfair. It “would serve no one but ZeniMax, who would use it only as leverage to try to extract money from Oculus,” attorneys said in the filing, which was obtained by Bloomberg.
“The injunction would create a windfall for ZeniMax while detracting from the public’s enjoyment of Oculus’s groundbreaking products.” The company went on to argue that reworking its software for the Rift VR headset would be tough to do and would require the company to “have to hire clean-room engineers to make myriad changes not just to the code fragments ZeniMax presented at trial, but to numerous other segments of interrelated and interdependent code. The process would be lengthy, burdensome, and costly.” Oculus wants the February ruling set aside or the damages reduced to $50 million at the most.
While the market for VR is still in its infancy, Facebook and others see it as a big opportunity with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg saying as much at last year’s Mobile World Congress. He argued then that VR is the next evolution of technology. "Pretty soon we are going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you are just there, right there in person. Imagine being able to sit in front of a campfire and hang out with friends anytime you want. Or being able to watch a movie in a private theater with your friends anytime you want. Imagine holding a group meeting or event anywhere in the world that you want,” he said. According to market research firm Gartner, in 2017 there are expected to be 6.3 million VR and augmented reality hardware units shipped, up from 1.4 million in 2016.