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A Jury Ordered Facebook To Pay $500 Million In Damages For Copyright Infringement

Lawyer up again, Zuck.

Posted on February 1, 2017, at 5:13 p.m. ET

Glenn Chapman / AFP / Getty Images

A Dallas jury has ruled that Facebook owes $500 million in damages to a Dallas-based game maker that complained its inventions were stolen by Facebook's Oculus VR division.

Facebook, which acquired Oculus for $3 billion in 2014, said it plans to appeal the ruling.

ZeniMax claimed in its lawsuit that it had been the first to develop much of the technology used in the Oculus virtual reality headsets, and that one of its former employees, John Carmack, had given it away to Oculus's founder Palmer Luckey. Carmack later became the chief technical officer at Oculus.

ZeniMax sought several billion in damages, claiming Facebook stole its trade secrets.

While the lawsuit is over two years old, it attracted national attention a few weeks ago when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was put on the stand in a Dallas courtroom. “The idea that Oculus products are based on someone else’s technology is just wrong," Zuckerberg said in response to questions from a ZeniMax attorney.

The jury, however, concluded that Oculus and its founders Luckey and Brendan Iribe had infringed on ZeniMax's copyrights. The jury further ruled that Carmack had contributed to ZeniMax's infringement. Iribe was recently moved from the head of Facebook's virtual reality group.

The jury ruled against claims that Oculus had stolen trade secrets.

“The heart of this case was about whether Oculus stole ZeniMax's trade secrets, and the jury found decisively in our favor. We're obviously disappointed by a few other aspects of today's verdict, but we are undeterred. Oculus products are built with Oculus technology," a spokesperson for Facebook's Oculus division said in a statement. "We look forward to filing our appeal and eventually putting this litigation behind us."

During his testimony, Zuckerberg — whose legal battles over Facebook's origins are now Silicon Valley legend — tried to cast doubt on ZeniMax's claims. “It is pretty common when you announce a big deal or do something that all kinds of people just kind of come out of the woodwork and claim that they just own some portion of the deal,” he said.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.