Zuckerberg defends Oculus in court, denies it stole tech

Mr Zuckerberg says he is "highly confident" that Oculus VR products are built on its own technology.
Mr Zuckerberg says he is "highly confident" that Oculus VR products are built on its own technology.

DALLAS • A few years ago, Mr Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook and one of tech's shrewdest seers, made a huge bet on a new technology, virtual reality, buying Oculus VR, one of the most prominent start-ups in the industry, for more than US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion).

His dream of bringing virtual reality to the masses still has not come true. That frank assessment came from Mr Zuckerberg on Tuesday in a federal courtroom of all places, where Facebook is tangling with a games publisher that has accused Oculus of stealing technology that went into the creation of the Oculus virtual reality headset.

Mr Zuckerberg spoke during a court appearance, in which he was questioned about the Oculus deal. He denied accusations that Oculus had taken technology it did not own.

The dispute started more than 21/2 years ago, when ZeniMax Media sued Oculus just months after Facebook announced that it would acquire the start-up.

ZeniMax accused Oculus of stealing important elements of the technology that went into the creation of the headset, eventually including Facebook among the parties it was suing.

Mr Zuckerberg said: "We are highly confident that Oculus products are built on Oculus technology. The idea that Oculus products are based on someone else's technology is just wrong."

Facebook could face as much as US$2 billion in damages if it loses the suit.

The core of ZeniMax's case is that one of its former employees, Mr John Carmack, shared ZeniMax virtual reality technology with an Oculus founder during its early days, technology for which ZeniMax was never compensated. Mr Carmack, a game industry stalwart, later joined Oculus.

A lawyer for ZeniMax used some of his time questioning Mr Zuckerberg to bolster the company's argument that Facebook rushed through its review of Oculus when buying it, overlooking details about its dispute with ZeniMax.

In response to questioning from the lawyer for Facebook, Mr Zuckerberg said the company spends weeks, months or years thinking about the issues that lead it to make acquisitions.

He said Facebook believes that negotiating deals quickly is important in an environment where it is often competing with tech giants such as Google and Apple.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2017, with the headline 'Zuckerberg defends Oculus in court, denies it stole tech'. Print Edition | Subscribe