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Facebook chief reveals real cost of Oculus in court testimony

Testifying in an IP-theft case against Facebook-owned Oculus, Mark Zuckerberg reveals the acquisition cost $3bn, not $2bn as originally announced

Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has revealed the real cost of acquiring virtual reality (VR) firm Oculus while testifying in an intellectual property (IP) theft case against the company.

As expected, he told a Dallas court that it was work done by Oculus that made VR into the valuable technology it is today.

“I’m here because I believe [the claims are] false, and it’s important to testify to that,” he said. “The idea that Oculus products are based on someone else’s technology is just wrong.”

Zuckerberg was called as a witness in the second week of a court case brought by ZeniMax Media, which is suing Facebook for $2bn, claiming that Oculus copied its early innovations in VR when developing the Oculus Rift headset.

The only surprising thing revealed in his testimony was that, in addition to the $2bn purchase agreement announced in 2014, Facebook paid another $1bn in incentives to keep key members of the Oculus team, reports the BBC.

Zuckerberg also revealed that although he has indicated that he sees VR as an integral part of Facebook’s future, he does not think VR technology is ”fully there yet”.

Facebook announced its acquisition of Oculus in 2014 just ahead of the release of Oculus Rift, saying virtual reality technology was a strong candidate to emerge as the next social and communications platform.

But ZeniMax has accused games designer and id Software co-founder John Carmack of sharing VR intellectual property with Oculus in the four months he worked for both companies, and for taking it with him when he left the ZeniMax-owned id Software in November 2013 for Oculus, where he is now chief technology officer.

In court papers, ZeniMax said: “Carmack secretly and illegally copied thousands of documents containing ZeniMax’s intellectual property from his computer at ZeniMax to a USB storage device which he wrongfully took with him to Oculus.”

ZeniMax also alleges that Carmack destroyed evidence supporting the company’s claims.

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Responding to the claims, Oculus said in a statement that its founders have “invested a wealth of time and money in VR” in the belief that the technology can “fundamentally transform the way people interact and communicate”.

“We’re disappointed that another company is using wasteful litigation to attempt to take credit for technology that it did not have the vision, expertise or patience to build,” the statement said.

Facebook’s defence is that Oculus was forced to seek another investor when ZeniMax chose not to invest in VR technology, and that ZeniMax showed interest in VR only after Facebook’s  acquisition of Oculus was made public.

In his testimony, Zuckerberg said it was “pretty common when you announce a big deal that people just come out of the woodwork and claim they own some part of the deal”. He also disputed the significance of Zenimax’s role in developing early prototypes of the Oculus Rift.

The next key witness in the court case, which is expected to last three weeks, is Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey, who developed Oculus Rift with Carmack.

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