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US Judge halves ZeniMax's $500m win in Facebook Oculus legal battle

Also denies Bethesda parent's request for sales ban on Rift headsets

The ongoing battle between Facebook and ZeniMax Media continues as a US District Judge has revised the terms of the latter's earlier's win.

Back in February 2017, ZeniMax was awarded $500 million by a jury in Dallas, Texas but judge Ed Kinkeade has now ruled that the firm will receive $250 million, Bloomberg reports. The bulk of this - $200 million - is for breach of contract, while the other $50 million is for copyright infringement.

The case centres around a lawsuit filed by ZeniMax back in May 2014 - just a couple of months after Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion. The firm claimed Oculus stole trade secrets to create its Rift virtual reality headset, alleging that Palmer Luckey, former id Software exec John Carmack and other former ZeniMax employees reverse engineered research and copyrighted code for the project.

Oculus argued that this copyright infringement wasn't "substantial" enough to warrant the original $500 million, claiming that just seven lines of Oculus code had been copied from ZeniMax "out of approximately 42 billion lines".

Kinkeade seems to have agreed, dropping $250 million of the jury's proposed award for ZeniMax, as well as the damages specifically against Luckey and fellow Oculus co-founder Brendan Iribe.

A few months after the original verdict, ZeniMax then pushed for Kinkeade to rule that Rift devices should be removed from sale. Oculus argued that this would place unfair hardship on the company, particularly as ZeniMax has no rival product that is suffering because of the Rift's availability, and Kinkeade ruled that there would be no ban.

In a statement, ZeniMax expressed pleasure at its $250 million win, but disappointment that this was half the original figure. It is reportedly considering its next step.

"Based on strong evidentiary record, the jury in this case found that ZeniMax was seriously harmed by the defendants' theft of ZeniMax's breakthrough VR technology and its verdict reflected that harm."

Facebook vice president and deputy general counsel Paul Grewal said: "We've said from day one the ZeniMax case is deeply flawed, and today the court agreed. Our commitment to Oculus is unwavering and we will continue to invest in building the future of VR."

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James Batchelor

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James Batchelor has been a journalist in the games industry since 2006, joining GamesIndustry in 2016, and also runs Non-Violent Game of the Day (@NVGOTD). He does play violent games, but always on Story/Easy mode.

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