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U.S. FTC will not appeal decision allowing Meta to purchase VR content maker Within

Headquarters of Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc in Mountain View

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said it will not appeal its loss in federal court in its fight to stop Meta Platforms from buying VR content maker Within Unlimited, but could still pursue the case with an internal FTC administrative law judge.

Judge Edward Davila of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California last week declined to stop Meta from acquiring the VR content maker, rejecting the regulator's concerns the deal would reduce competition in a new market.

An FTC official said that no decision had yet been made as to whether the agency would try to stop the deal in a process before an FTC administrative law judge. The hearing for that is set for Feb. 13.

Meta declined to comment on the decision not to appeal last week's ruling in federal court.

The FTC sued Meta in July to stop the Within deal, asking the judge to order a preliminary injunction, saying Meta's "campaign to conquer VR" began in 2014 when it acquired Oculus, a VR headset manufacturer.

Meta did not disclose what it was paying for Within but tech publication the Information put the price at about $400 million.

A December trial to decide if Meta could go forward with the relatively small deal was seen as a test of the FTC's bid to head off what it sees as a repeat of the company acquiring small upcoming would-be rivals to dominate a market, this time in the nascent virtual and augmented reality markets.

The FTC has separately filed an ongoing lawsuit against Meta's Facebook, asking a court in 2020 to force it to sell subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp, saying the social media company used a "buy or bury" strategy to snap up rivals and keep smaller competitors at bay.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Aurora Ellis)