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Facebook has been ordered by a US court to pay a whopping $500m to a gaming software company in a lawsuit which claimed virtual reality technology was stolen. In documents shown to the court, Facebook’s virtual reality arm Oculus Rift stood accused of basing its Rift headset products on technology stolen from ZeniMax’s VR software

The court heard how it was alleged that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey had developed its Rift headsets courtesy of source code which was illegally obtained from ZeniMax. The jury at the courthouse in Texas dismissed charges against Oculus in relation that they stole or misappropriated trade secrets – but did find Facebook’s VR unit liable for copyright infringement and other violations.

The Oculus founder was ordered to pay $50m – and his executive Brendan Iribe was told by the court that he had to pay $150m. The two executives had allegedly violated a non-disclosure agreement with ZeniMax and copied source code and other documents on a USB storage device.

ZeniMax had sought damages for $4 billion in the case, and during the trial Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg testified to defend his company.

ZeniMax had sought $4 billion in damages in a case which seen Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg take the stand to defend his company. Following the court ruling the gaming software firm expressed their happiness at the decision handed down by jury, and for ruling that a violation had occurred in relation to their non-disclosure agreement with Oculus.

Chairman and chief executive of ZeniMax, Robert Altman said, “Technology is the foundation of our business and we consider the theft of our intellectual property to be a serious matter.”

Oculus released a statement in which they confirmed they planned to appeal the verdict, and that this would not deter them from bringing VR technology to customers.

The statement read, “The heart of this case was about whether Oculus stole ZeniMax's trade secrets, and the jury found decisively in our favor. Our commitment to the long-term success of VR remains the same, and the entire team will continue the work they've done since day one -developing VR technology that will transform the way people interact and communicate. We look forward to filing our appeal and eventually putting this litigation behind us."

Oculus was acquired by Facebook almost three years ago for more than $2 billion – and last year began trading Rift headsets as part of the social network giants push into the world of virtual reality. Facebook released its earnings for the fourth quarter, and in a statement to analysts confirmed that it would still keep ‘making big investments in VR content’ and was excited about what is coming in 2017 from games to immersive experiences.

Published in Finance