ZeniMax’s cheeky attempt to shut down the Oculus Rift is bad news for Facebook’s VR plans

Following its court victory against Oculus earlier this month, in which it was awarded $500m for violation of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and copyright infringement, ZeniMax has now filed an injunction demanding that all Oculus Rift products using the infringing code are removed from sale.

It’s beginning to seem possible that ZeniMax may be running on pure spite and over-ambition. After asking for $4bn in the earlier lawsuit, the new injunction would essentially grind Oculus sales to a halt. Though headsets would potentially still be sellable, without the software they wouldn’t be particularly useful to own.

According to Upload VR, the filing demands that Oculus be: “…permanently enjoined, on a worldwide basis, from using…any of the Copyrighted Materials, including but not limited to (i) system software for Oculus PC (including the Oculus PC SDK); (ii) system software for Oculus Mobile (including the Oculus Mobile SDK); (iii) Oculus integration with the Epic Games Unreal Engine; and (iv) Oculus integration with the Unity Technologies Unity Game Engine.”

Of course, given ZeniMax’s already somewhat overshot ambition, there’s a pretty good chance this injunction goes nowhere. Given that a jury ruled no trade secrets had been stolen by Oculus, it’s not unreasonable to believe that the company could face such an extreme punishment as a halt of all sales.

Speaking to Ars Technica, Joshua Rich, a partner at IP law firm McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP, explained: “Had they prevailed on the trade secrets claim, [ZeniMax] would have been in an extremely strong position for an injunction. Here, I think it’s a relatively weak argument.”

Rich went on to say that the best ZeniMax is likely to get out of this injunction is forcing Oculus to replace any code that bears a similarity to that which violated the NDA. Doing so would likely rely on bringing in a team of programmers with no knowledge of the old code and keeping them completely separate from any form of it.

Images courtesy of Oculus

It’s no sales shutdown, but such a code replacement would still be a big dent to Facebook’s Oculus plans.  As it has to fight this litigation, on top of appealing the former judgement, it seems to be falling further and further behind in where it hoped to be in the virtual reality market.

Given further reports from Business Insider earlier this month that the company is struggling with low demand for Oculus headsets, Facebook better hope that the long game they have set out for VR pays off.  They certainly have the money to keep it ticking along for now, but if they keep hitting road blocks like this, the competition is going to keep showing them up.

It is likely that the injunction will fail, but, if not, Oculus may well and truly be on the ropes. With the rise of Playstation VR and the strength of HTC’s Vive, the previous forerunners are starting to look less and less confident as the future of the medium.

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