Palmer Luckey (AP Images)
DALLAS — After being basically in hiding for 117 days, Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey spent his first full day back in the spotlight getting grilled by a feisty lawyer who tried to “make fun” of the fact Luckey had no college degrees.
Luckey took the stand here in the northern district Federal courtroom to testify in a $2 billion intellectual property lawsuit brought against Facebook by ZeniMax. The suit alleges Oculus stole vital information before it was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion:
While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony yesterday got testy, today Luckey made Zuck seem chiller than a billionaire with 16 bodyguards.
In a heated exchange with ZeniMax lawyer Phillip Philbin (real name!), Luckey repeatedly interjected and argued over the characterization of a non-disclosure agreement he had with ZeniMax, and Philbin’s omissions while reading out parts of the NDA in court.
“I can’t answer your question accurately when you leave out seven or eight words,” Luckey huffed.
Later Luckey added: “You’re only showing me one message in a long chain of messages. I just want to make sure I accurately describe the content of my [email] replies so they’re not taken to mean something they don’t mean. Which is easy to do when there’s only one line there.”
“You don’t have a law degree, right?” Philbin shot back.
Part of ZeniMax’s legal argument is that Luckey is no genius, and didn’t have the technical skill to build the Oculus Rift on his own. To attempt to establish this, Philbin asked Luckey if he had a degree in electrical engineering. “No,” Luckey replied. Then, Phillbin asked if Luckey had a degree in engineering. “No,” Luckey replied. “Well, you don’t have a degree at all?” “No,” Luckey replied, explaining that he had dropped out of college. Lawyers for Facebook later characterized this as an attempt by ZeniMax to “make fun” of Luckey, who is 24 years old and worth a shitload of money.
Facebook responded to ZeniMax’s attempts to make Luckey look like a know-nothing by recalling Luckey’s long interest in engineering and electronics from a young age. Lawyers for Facebook showed the jury an issue of “Nuts and Volts,” an electronics hobbyist magazine that Luckey had subscribed to as a youth. Facebook’s lawyers also had Luckey recount stories of tinkering with electronics in his parent’s garage as a teenager. Essentially, Facebook called bullshit on the suggestion that Luckey would have needed to complete college to build an Oculus Rift prototype.
During one of the breaks, it appeared that a lawyer from Facebook was giving Luckey a pep talk, seemingly instructing him to slow down and be more calm. When that Facebook lawyer later questioned Luckey, she asked him to speak slower.
ZeniMax is seeking $2 billion in damages and a jury verdict is expected sometime next week.