DALLAS — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg fired off some sick burns and engaged in a heated exchange with a lawyer while giving testimony in a blockbuster £1.6 billion lawsuit trial in a northern district Federal courtroom on Tuesday.
In the first time he’s ever testified in a trial, Zuckerberg was grilled by Zenimax lawyer Toni Sammi in the company’s intellectual property lawsuit against Oculus-owner Facebook.
The suit alleges that Oculus stole trade secrets in part when former senior ZeniMax employee John Carmack left ZeniMax and joined Oculus as chief technical officer in 2014. The company also says Facebook quickly pushed through the deal to purchase Oculus in 2014 and didn’t perform adequate due diligence, ignoring a legal letter sent from Zenimax threatening litigation.
In response to a question from Sammi on the legal warning ahead of the Oculus sale, Zuck dropped a brutal own on Zenimax.
“It is pretty common when you announce a big deal or do something like that all kinds of people come out of the woodwork and claim that they just own some portion of the deal,” Zuck said.
“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.”
ZeniMax is the owner of video game developers Bethesda Softworks (Fallout, Skyrim) and id Software (Quake, Doom). Sammi then repeatedly laid into Zuck over his use of the word “woodwork” and asked incredulously how he could never have heard of ZeniMax, considering the technical wizard Oculus hired, Carmack, had worked there previously.
Earlier in the day, Sammi asked Zuckerberg if he had fired Carmack. Zuck smiled back and said: “My understanding is that the claims in this case are false, so it would be wrong to fire him for that.” This comment and other coy remarks from Zuck were met by laughter from the courtroom.
Sammi and Zuckerberg also had a terse exchange over Zuck’s knowledge of a 2014 non-disclosure agreement between Zenimax and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey. Initially, Zuck refused to commit to the fact that he had first known about the NDA in 2016, two years after the purchase of Oculus, and only in a deposition for the current lawsuit. Eventually, the Facebook CEO agreed that was the first he’d heard of it. “So I’m the guy who told you about it for the first time,” Sammi asked.
“Sounds right,” Zuckerberg replied.
Facebook’s knowledge of the NDA is key to ZeniMax’s case, which alleges that Luckey violated his NDA when he pitched Oculus, and that Facebook didn’t do adequate due diligence ahead of the purchase.
Sammi also attempted to establish how quickly Facebook rushed the purchase of Oculus. Referencing an email from Zuckerberg to Amin Zoufounoun, the vice president of corporate development at Faceboook, Sammi alleged Zuckerberg pushed to conduct only two days of legal diligence.
“Your plan was to begin legal diligence on Friday, and sign the deal on Monday?” Sammi asked Zuckerberg, sounding outraged.
“Yep,” replied Zuckerberg.
Referencing the short timeframe, Sammi said: “It takes longer than that to inspect a house!”
Zuckerberg: “I can’t really speak to the timeframe it takes to inspect a house.”
Sammi later referenced texts sent to Zuckerberg from Zoufounoun saying that Oculus had told Facebook things during negotiations that were “simply not true.” In a text message, Zuckerberg replied “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.”
Luckey and former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe are scheduled to testify later this week. ZeniMax is seeking £1.6 billion in damages.