Who Owns The VR Technology?

Jan 29, 2017 By Anita R
Anita R's picture

Move over 3D technology; make way for Virtual Reality - the new kid on the block!

Back in March 2014, Facebook made a bold and expensive purchase. The company paid $2 billion - an enormous amount of money, to buy Oculus – a company that pioneered Virtual Reality software and hardware.  

Oculus was a relatively new and unproven technology. However, the high price that Facebook paid for Oculus was just the beginning. A legal suit soon followed.

Zenimax Media sued Oculus (now Facebook), for stealing important elements of the technology that goes to make the VR headset. According to Zenimax, one of its former employees shared the VR technology with the founder of Oculus, Palmer Luckey, and was never compensated for it. They claim the core of the VR technology is their intellectual property. Meanwhile, Facebook has invested and developed the VR technology further after it acquired Oculus.

Two weeks back, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg appeared in court to defend Facebook’s legal ownership of the VR technology that it had acquired through the purchase of Oculus.

What is Virtual Reality?

Remember Avatar and movies of the 3D genre, where images project out of a flat screen to the wearer of special eyewear?

That technology seems so outdated in front of today’s coolest toys – Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Playstation VR. You may have tried one of those bulky eyewear. Maybe you have seen others wearing one and waving their hands in abandon.

The head mounted devices use computer technology to create an imaginary environment. But unlike other previous projection technologies, VR places the user inside the experience. Rather then just watch action on a screen, users actually get to interact with the 3D environment in countless ways such as touching, sight, hearing and smell.

The potential for VR is enormous and could span several industries including entertainment, education, simulation and so much more. Given that this could become the technology of the future, there is a lot of money to be made off this technology. But it begs the question, who owns the technology?

Intellectual Property rights

What makes intellectual property so very important?

So lets say you like to play an instrument. You record a piece and publish it online. Just because it is free you are not going to like it if a random person copies your music and shares it with many others or worst still makes money using your music. Intellectual property (IP) includes words we read, images we see, videos we watch and even music we listen to.

Everybody recognizes that IP needs to be respected; otherwise it can cost a lot of suffering. Not only could it be hurtful, it could also mean a lot of money lost for the original creator. Unfortunately in cases such as the Oculus, when collaboration or enhancement of software occurs, it is sometimes difficult to clearly figure out who actuallys owns what part of the IP.

For now it is up to the courts to get to the bottom of whether Oculus (now Facebook) legally acquired the right to use and enhance this cool technology after all. 

Learn what makes up an "Intellectual Property" in this video below-