Bethesda owner Zenimax wins settlement from Facebook over stolen VR code

Back in 2017, ZeniMax Media — the parent company of Bethesda — filed a lawsuit against Oculus, owned by Facebook, for stealing trade secrets and infringing on its copyrights. While under NDA with ZeniMax, Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey worked on VR headset prototypes. When he left, it seems like he took that work with him. Over the last year, ZeniMax has been involved in lawsuits with Oculus as a company, and John Carmack separately over a different matter. According a report by Gizmodo, a lawyer for ZeniMax called it "one of the biggest technology heists ever."

It seems that ZeniMax was justified because a jury initially awarded the company $500 million. However, the award was cut in half by the court. Then, as with every such lawsuit, Facebook appealed and that was the last we heard of it. Today, Windows Central received a press release from Bethesda announcing that both parties had reached a settlement. Excerpts from the document can be seen below.

ZeniMax Media has agreed to settle the litigation it brought against Facebook, Oculus, and others for the unlawful misappropriation of its breakthrough VR technology that ZeniMax had developed. The case was tried in the Federal District Court in Dallas in January 2017, resulting in a jury verdict in favor of ZeniMax for $500 million, and other relief. Subsequently, the District Court reduced the damage award to $250 million, and the parties appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The appeal was pending when the settlement was reached with Facebook. The terms of the settlement are confidential.

ZeniMax's CEO Robert Altman said that he was pleased that a settlement has been reached and was fully satisfied by the outcome. Altman went on to stress how much he disliked litigation, but in this case needed to protect his company's IP from companies like Facebook.

It would've been interesting if the terms of the settlement had been disclosed. Despite the mystery, it's great to see that this issue has been sorted and ZeniMax received the compensation it deserved. What are you views on the outcome? Let us know.

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Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

4 Comments
  • Money for a failed platform - Nice
  • I wouldn't exactly call it failed. They sold over 5 million Gear VR HMDs for Samsung Galaxy S, they are still developing other HMDs and most importantly from stolen IPs from Zenimax. I am glad Zenimax was compensated in this situation and I am also glad I never purchased a facebook HMD.
  • “While under NDA with ZeniMax, both former Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey and current Oculus CTO John Carmack worked on VR headset prototypes. When they both left their ZeniMax agreements, they took that work with them.” Not surprising from the thief Carmack. I once read in a book about Doom that he and Romero and others stole computers from their employer every night for coding Doom at home.
  • Please do some basic diligence on your reporting of this. Zenimax was awarded the $500 million for Palmer Luckey breaking a non-disclosure agreement. The jury specifically found that Oculus did not take any trade secrets or code when Carmack was hired. Disclosure: I now work at Oculus, but this information is available from any source. The way you phrase this is completely at odds with the actual facts of the jury award or subsequent settlement.