Feb 1, 2023 - Technology

Court denies FTC bid to block Meta's VR deal

Illustration of Meta’s logo wrapped around a gavel.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Meta has a green light to buy virtual reality fitness startup Within, beating a Federal Trade Commission bid to block the acquisition.

Driving the news: Per Bloomberg, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila made the ruling in sealed court documents filed in California district court Wednesday.

  • The judge also ruled that Meta must wait a week before closing the deal, per Bloomberg.
  • Axios has not seen the contents of the sealed court documents detailing Davila's decision.

Why it matters: The ruling is a blow to Chair Lina Khan's antitrust agenda. Khan has aggressively pursued blocking mergers by larger companies, especially in the tech industry.

  • Meta declined to comment. An FTC spokesperson declined to comment "out of respect for the Court's orders."

The big picture: Khan has said she wants to take more cases to court rather than reach settlements. Experts critical of the FTC's case previously told Axios they believed it would be extremely difficult to win.

Flashback: The FTC first filed to block Meta's acquisition in July, arguing that Meta is "already a key player at each level of the virtual reality sector," per a release.

  • The FTC has argued that Meta acquiring Within would reduce future competition in the nascent VR market.
  • Meta argues that smaller companies like Within often need the resources of larger owners to achieve their potential and reach more potential customers.

What's next: The FTC is set to start a separate trial to block the same deal in its own administrative court on February 13, though it could opt not to move forward after the ruling in California.

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