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Facebook and ZeniMax settle legal battle over Oculus VR and stolen secrets

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Oculus face-on Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

ZeniMax Media and Facebook today settled a long-running legal dispute over the creation of the Oculus Rift VR headset, which ZeniMax claimed was the result of stolen trade secrets (including code and research) shared by ex-ZeniMax employees who had been hired by Oculus.

Among those hires was John Carmack, the well-known co-founder of id Software (which ZeniMax owns) who joined Palmer Luckey, Brendan Iribe, and the rest of the Oculus VR team in 2013 before Facebook bought the VR company for $2 billion. Variety and CNBC reported news of the settlement.

ZeniMax pursued litigation against Facebook in 2014 and at one point sought to block sales of Oculus headsets. The trial began at the start of 2017, with several key executives (including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg) taking the stand. A Texas federal jury ruled in the company’s favor last year. Facebook was initially ordered to pay $500 million, with Luckey and Iribe liable for $50 million and $150 million of that judgement, respectively.

In June, a judge cut the total to $250 million — $200 million for breach of contract and $50 million over copyright infringement — and let the two executives off the hook. ZeniMax appealed that decision, but today’s settlement puts an end to that effort.

“We are pleased that a settlement has been reached and are fully satisfied by the outcome,” ZeniMax CEO Robert Altman said. “While we dislike litigation, we will always vigorously defend against any infringement or misappropriation of our intellectual property by third parties.”

Facebook’s statement was much more brief. “We’re pleased to put this behind us and continue building the future of VR,” a spokesperson said. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.