ZeniMax claims Oculus stole VR tech with Carmack's help

ZeniMax has issued a legal threat against Oculus VR, claiming that it both took proprietary VR technology and used John Carmack's expertise from his time at ZeniMax-owned id Software.


John Carmack's departure from id Software to Oculus seemed civil enough, but parent company ZeniMax Media has raised a legal claim that could spell trouble for the VR company. Lawyers for the company claim that Carmack took ZeniMax's intellectual property to Oculus VR, and further, that this tech helped get Oculus off the ground.

"It was only through the concerted efforts of Mr. Carmack, using technology developed over many years at, and owned by, ZeniMax, that [Oculus founder] Mr. Luckey was able to transform his garage-based pipe dream into a working reality," the lawyers stated in correspondence obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

Oculus denied the claim to Engadget. "It's unfortunate, but when there's this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims," the company stated. "We intend to vigorously defend Oculus and its investors to the fullest extent."

In a lengthy statement, ZeniMax claims it provided Oculus with "necessary VR technology and other valuable assistance" in 2012 and 2013. It claims that proprietary technology, along with Carmack's expertise from being a ZeniMax employee, are owned by the company. They also state that Palmer Luckey of Oculus acknowledged the intellectual property in writing even before the Facebook acquisition, and that in that agreement Luckey agreed not to disclose the technology to any third parties without ZeniMax approval.

"Oculus has used and exploited ZeniMax's technology and intellectual property without authorization, compensation or credit to ZeniMax," the company statement reads. "ZeniMax and Oculus previously attempted to reach an agreement whereby ZeniMax would be compensated for its intellectual property through equity ownership in Oculus but were unable to reach a satisfactory resolution. ZeniMax believes it is necessary to address these matters now and will take the necessary action to protect its interests."

From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 1, 2014 8:50 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, ZeniMax claims Oculus stole VR tech with Carmack's help.

    ZeniMax has issued a legal threat against Oculus VR, claiming that it both took proprietary VR technology and used John Carmack's expertise from his time at ZeniMax-owned id Software.

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      May 1, 2014 9:04 AM

      Someone wants that Facebook money

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        May 1, 2014 9:12 AM

        Can you blame them, they are taking a huge loss on Elder Scrolls Online.

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          May 1, 2014 9:22 AM

          uh? the game is pretty freaking successful as far as I can see?

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            May 2, 2014 2:23 AM

            ? i thought it was considered pretty bad, but, i havnt actually played it. (and dont plan on it)

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      May 1, 2014 9:14 AM

      Brought to you by the same people that are claiming to own the word "scrolls". What a bunch of cunts.

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      May 1, 2014 9:21 AM

      oh yeah, zenimax is known for their hardware. eyes = rolled.

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      May 1, 2014 9:36 AM

      I won't claim to know how the shit works there but a lot of companies I have worked for had me sign a stipulation that anything that I invent or make is the property of the company I work for. A small part of me thinks that they are trying to pull that card with Carmack.

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        May 1, 2014 9:37 AM

        I can't imagine Carmack would sign something like that. He was a rock star there and I doubt would be bullied in to anything.

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          May 1, 2014 9:38 AM

          Wouldn't anything he did for Armadillo Aerospace fall under that, as well?

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            May 1, 2014 10:05 AM

            In my experience, it's not "anything and everything you create" just "anything and everything that could be seen as competitive to our company"

            IE: Video games, interactive media, etc.. and in Carmacks case tech, engines, demos.

            It's a lame agreement and I have fought it every time I am hired by a company. It's 2014, self publishing is a reality, if I want to make an app, a dinky little game, or whatever, it should be my right to do so as long as it's not on company time or using their equipment.

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        May 1, 2014 9:47 AM

        And last I checked those agreements are considered non-enforceable. Here in California, they're flat out illegal (that is, the laws declare such agreements null and void). Only inventions having to do substantially with the current business can be owned by the company, and even then it's a gray area unless you used company resources.

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      May 1, 2014 9:44 AM

      Aren't some of the big investors in Zenimax linked to organized crime in Russia? Couldn't they just tell Putin that Oculus has some ethic Russians that need liberating?

      I kid, I kid. Please don't send assassins.

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      May 1, 2014 10:14 AM

      i have no information on the truth of these allegations or any particular fondness for either facebook or zenimax but given that carmack pretty much raided every single employee worth a shit before he went to oculus i can see how zenimax might be pissed at him. its hard to say from an outside perspective whats what in this case unlike when zenimax decided to go after mojang and their use of the word "scrolls".

      zenimax has a really bad reputation though if you look at developers who worked with them. look up what they did with arcane, how they treated the brink developers or how they tried to ruin and buy of humanhead the same way they did with arcane.

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        May 1, 2014 8:24 PM

        It would be kind of ludicrous to expect anyone technical at id not to try to go wherever Carmack goes. Likely the whole reason they were at id in the first place was Carmack.

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      May 1, 2014 10:34 AM

      Let the judge sort it out.

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      May 1, 2014 12:33 PM

      At least Facebook will fight for them, right? Big company vs. Big company? No little guy getting screwed? This is how I hope is goes down.

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        May 1, 2014 1:41 PM

        Facebook is publicly owned. Publicly owned companies tend to not fight cases like this, they like to settle. I suspect it is supremely likely Facebook will settle for a flat payoff to Zenimax so the shareholders don't have to go through a lawsuit.

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      May 1, 2014 1:04 PM

      Well, sounds like someone is butthurt that Carmack left and took his friends with him.

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      May 1, 2014 1:29 PM

      While I'm on Carmack's side on this, he should of read the fine print of his agreement. Sure this is dickish on ZeniMax's part but he signed it....

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        May 1, 2014 2:24 PM

        Dunno why, but all I can think of is that "Mind Robber" scene from the last Community episode.

        Only in this case it is a ZeniMax attorney shouting "I see it. We've patented --hang gliders!"

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      May 1, 2014 2:30 PM

      Zenimax is run by scumbags. Jerry Bruckheimer, Donald Trumps brother is on the board, their CEO, Altman, forced out his partner Christopher Weaver and has been indicted for fraud.

      What they did to Human Head, Inxile and Splash Damage is borderline illegal.

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        May 1, 2014 2:55 PM

        The Human Head stuff is pretty well known, but I'm not aware of any specifics regarding Inxile or Splash Damage.

        Without actually saying anything, a few Brian Fargo interviews suggest that Bethesda was largely responsible for turning Hunted into a fantasy Gears of War, then when they weren't happy with the critical response to it, they refused to pay Inxile's bonus.

        Splash Damage also never said anything publically but were clearly not happy with their experiences on Brink. They did what they were contracted for after release, then immediately went and formed their own publishing arm. I get the impression that they would rather never work with a publisher again if possible.

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          May 1, 2014 7:06 PM

          Splash Damage were promised an extension (just like Human Head) that was pulled during the last months of development. This allowed Bethesda to fail milestones and forced SD to fund the remainder of Brink's development out of their own pocket. Once again, Bethesda wanted to acquire an id-tech studio (one that had closely collaborated with id on Quake) for peanuts.

          Inxile had a promising game that suffered thanks to a hostile relationship with it's publisher. "I don't think we'll be talking with Bethesda... We had a tough relationship with them." http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-02-17-its-kind-of-funny-to-be-competing-with-my-own-franchise

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      May 1, 2014 7:09 PM


      'Oculus uses zero lines of code that I wrote while under contract to Zenimax.'

      So no code, no patents...

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        May 1, 2014 7:32 PM

        Zenimax owned Carmack's brain at the time, didn't you know?

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      May 1, 2014 11:37 PM

      At first I was thinking that Zenimax was only suing because they smelled all that delicious Facebook money, but after reading the claim it sounds more complicated than that. It sounds more like they offered some early help in exchange for having a say (read: excuse to get money) in some of Oculus' future deals with third parties. Then the company gets bought without Zenimax having any of the involvement (money) their agreement entitled them to.

      Zenimax's claims could very well be bullcrap, of course. If they're not though, it's an interesting wrinkle. It sounds like they tried to cut a startup an early break in exchange for a future business opportunity, then got screwed. Again, if their claims aren't bullcrap.

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        May 2, 2014 12:09 AM

        Probably. I fully expect to feel like an asshole before all of this is said and done.

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