ZeniMax's legal action against Oculus VR could have a profound impact on the contest for supremacy in the virtual reality headset space.
Earlier this month, ZeniMax’s legal battle with Oculus VR closed out its first chapter when a court found that members of the Facebook-owned virtual reality company had failed to comply with non-disclosure agreements. ZeniMax was awarded $500 million in damages, but the video game publisher has now taken steps to reignite its dispute with Oculus.
On Thursday, ZeniMax representatives appeared in a federal court in Dallas, Texas to request an injunction against Oculus. If successful, the company will be blocked from using the code at the center of the earlier court case — it’s alleged to be based on work carried out by John Carmack before he jumped ship from ZeniMax subsidiary Id Software.
This injunction could have a huge impact on Oculus if it is granted, perhaps even more so than the damages the company was ordered to pay on February 1. It could prevent devices including the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR from being sold, as well as potentially taking some VR games off the market, according to a report from Tom’s Hardware.
The code in question is thought to be used in Oculus’ hardware, and is also said to have been distributed to certain developers for use in their projects. If this is the case, those products might themselves have to be pulled from sale.
However, it’s not yet clear whether or not ZeniMax’s injunction will be successful. While Oculus staff were found to have breached non-disclosure agreements earlier this month, the court ruled that the company had not misappropriated trade secrets.
Shortly after the case was decided, Carmack weighed in with his thoughts on ZeniMax’s claims of code theft, criticizing some of the arguments leveled against him, and the plaintiff’s expert in particular. “The notion of non-literal copying is probably delicious to many lawyers, since a sufficient application of abstraction and filtering can show that just about everything is related,” he wrote, going on to downplay the concrete similarities between work he submitted to Id Software and Oculus’ code.
The quarrel between ZeniMax and Oculus seems poised to run on and on, and if successful, this injunction could have a major impact on the VR landscape. $500 million in damages isn’t a huge setback for a company backed by the deep pockets of Facebook — being forced to withdraw Rift hardware from sale, on the other hand, would be a major obstacle to overcome.