Enlarge / Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wanders past oblivious people in Samsung Gear VR headsets in a photo that is not from this trial.Facebook
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In what he said was his first time testifying in a courtroom, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he was “highly confident that Oculus products are built on Oculus technology.”
The testimony came during a trial in which ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Softworks and Id Software, alleges that Doom co-creator John Carmack stole trade secrets and destroyed evidence when he took VR technology developed as a ZeniMax employee over to Oculus when he became its Chief Technology Officer in 2013. Zuckerberg rebutted that idea flatly on the stand, saying, “the idea that Oculus products are based on someone else’s technology is just wrong” (as reported by The New York Times).
In his testimony, Zuckerberg hinted that ZeniMax was simply looking to latch on to Oculus’ success in the wake of the company’s $2 billion acquisition by Facebook in 2014. “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,” Zuckerberg said (as reported by The New York Times‘ Mike Isaac in this tweet). “Like most people in the court, I’ve never even heard of ZeniMax before.
I know that our legal team would look into this and examine, but they aren’t going to take a lot of my time on something they don’t think is credible.”
Based on reports from journalists in the audience at the Dallas trial, ZeniMax lawyers tried to press the case that Facebook didn’t do enough due diligence to detect any alleged IP theft between Oculus and ZeniMax before purchasing the VR company for $2 billion in 2014.
To support that argument, ZeniMax presented into evidence a text message to Zuckerberg from Amin Zoufounoun, Facebook’s vice president of corporate development, saying that “there are things [Oculus] told us that are simply not true.” In response, Zuckerberg texted back that he should “keep pushing forward until we have something we can sign on a moment’s notice, then we can figure out how long we wait for diligence,” according to a courtroom report from Gizmodo’s William Turton.
On the stand, Zuckerberg also confirmed ZeniMax’s incredulous assertion that Facebook’s “plan was to begin legal diligence on Friday and sign the deal on Monday.” In a followup, Zuckerberg suggested that Oculus was a smaller company at the time and didn’t need as much time for due diligence as other large Facebook acquisitions, such as WhatsApp.
ZeniMax’s lawyers established that Zuckerberg was not aware of an earlier non-disclosure agreement outlining the collaboration between Carmack and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey until 2016, when he was told about it by lawyers involved in the case.
The prosecution presented other evidence to show how eager Facebook was to get in on VR through an Oculus acquisition. “I wanted to just give him all my money on the spot,” venture capitalist and Facebook board member Marc Andreessen reportedly said of John Carmack in introducing Zuckerberg to the idea of an Oculus purchase.
After seeing Oculus’ technology in action, Zuckerberg wrote in an e-mail that the company was “miles ahead” of the competition.
ZeniMax also tried to make some legal hay of Facebook’s longstanding motto “move fast and break things,” suggesting that Facebook may have “broken” some things in quickly signing the Oculus deal. Zuckerberg joked that the motto has changed and that Facebook now tries to “move fast and build stable infrastructure” (a modification Facebook has publicized at least since 2014).
Aside from the questions about IP ownership, Zuckerberg also revealed in the trial that in addition to the $2 billion purchase price, Facebook had to spend an additional $700 million to retain key Oculus team members and another $300 million in deliverable milestone bonuses.
In a statement provided to the press, Oculus said, “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.”