A U.S. federal judge has sided with Meta Platforms Inc. (NASDAQ: META) in an ongoing antitrust legal battle with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over the purchase of virtual reality (VR) startup Within Unlimited.
According to a New York Times report, the judge dismissed the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop Meta from buying Within, a California company that creates and distributes AR and VR products and services. It’s best known as the maker of Supernatural, a VR fitness app.
NYT reported that Judge Edward J. Davila of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a temporary restraining order stopping Meta’s purchase of the startup for a week. This is intended to give the antitrust body time to consider appealing the ruling. The agency is also exploring whether to pursue the case through its in-house court.
The legal battle goes back to last July when the FTC sued Meta for anti-competitive practices after the company’s $400 million proposed purchase of Within. In its lawsuit, the FTC accused Meta of “trying to buy its way to the top” rather than competing with its rivals in the VR sector.
Such accusations are not new to Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder who bought off Instagram and WhatsApp to quash competition and unsuccessfully attempted to buy and kill off other rivals such as Snapchat.
“Meta chose to buy market position instead of earning it on the merits. This is an illegal acquisition, and we will pursue all appropriate relief,” the agency stated at the time.
The ruling deals a blow to Lina Khan, the new FTC chair who Joe Biden appointed to crack down on Big Tech’s monopoly and antitrust tactics. Khan has also sued to stop the $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), with the hearing set for later this year. Microsoft was reported to be eyeing the metaverse with the acquisition of Activision, a company best known as the maker of Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft.
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