Virtual reality may be the next big step in social media. Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg seems to believe that harnessing this industry could potentially lead to massive gains. In 2014, Facebook bought the company Oculus VR, perhaps to stress the point that it was willing to invest in the virtual reality technology. Two months after the acquisition, Facebook was slapped with a 2-Billion-dollar lawsuit from Oculus’ competitor ZeniMax Media Inc. At the heart of the case, ZeniMax argued Oculus had stolen trade secrets from ZeniMax when an employee for Zenimax left the company and agreed to become an employee for Oculus. After extensive litigation, a jury found that Oculus was not liable for trade secret misappropriation, but awarded ZeniMax half a billion dollars for breach of a nondisclosure agreement, copyright infringement, and false designation.
The story does not end here though. On Friday, May 12th 2017, ZeniMax filed a lawsuit against Samsung, another tech giant. Essentially, ZeniMax is claiming copyright infringement against Samsung and alleging the Gear VR technology/rights used in the Samsung product are the same as the one disputed in the Oculus case. ZeniMax alleges that at no point did Samsung reach out to ZeniMax for permission to use its copyrights. The lawsuit also asserted unfair competition, tortious interference, trade secret misappropriation under Texas law, and under the relatively new federal cause of action for Trade Secret Misappropriation.
Given that Oculus was already been found liable for infringement but not liable of trade secret misappropriation, it will be interesting to see how the District Court handles this contributory copyright infringement issue. It is still unclear how Samsung will respond to these allegations.
The lawsuit comes with a lesson for all businesses: be careful when making new hires to ensure that incoming employees have not taken anything inappropriate from former employers. Given the range of allegations that may be made for copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation, and unfair competition, plaintiffs have many avenues to attack competitors. It is wise for businesses to have contracts with new employees (particularly those with access to critical skill sets) that state they are not subject to noncompete agreements, and that they are not in possession of materials from former employers, including electronic media, emails, etc.
The attorneys of Buche & Associates, P.C. have handled federal litigation of copyright, patent, trade secret, and unfair competition claims across the country and defended such allegations in District Courts, Appellate Courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. If you have a question about intellectual property litigation, you may contact email@example.com.
Article by Jorge Zamora, JD candidate, University of Houston, and John Buche, J.D. ©2017 Buche & Associates, P.C. www.buchelaw.com