Zenimax and id Software file lawsuit against Oculus VR [Update]

Nearly three weeks after accusing Oculus VR and John Carmack of stealing their intellectual property, Zenimax and id Software have formally filed suit against the company in a Texas court.

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Update: Oculus has responded to today's lawsuit. A statement to Kotaku reads, "The lawsuit filed by ZeniMax has no merit whatsoever. As we have previously said, ZeniMax did not contribute to any Oculus technology. Oculus will defend these claims vigorously."

Original story: Nearly three weeks after accusing Oculus VR and John Carmack of stealing their intellectual property, Zenimax and id Software have formally filed suit against the company in a Texas court.

The lawsuit claims that Oculus misappropriated trade secrets and accuses founder Palmer Luckey of breach of contract, copyright infringement, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, trademark infringement, and false designation.

"Intellectual property forms the foundation of our business," Zenimax Chairman & CEO Robert Altman said in a press release. "We cannot ignore the unlawful exploitation of intellectual property that we develop and own, nor will we allow misappropriation and infringement to go unaddressed."

Oculus has, to this point, denied Zenimax's claims, stating, "We are disappointed but not surprised by Zenimax's actions and we will prove that all of its claims are false. There is not a line of Zenimax code or any of its technology in any Oculus products."

The full lawsuit can be found here, courtesy of The Verge.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 21, 2014 12:15 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Zenimax and id Software file lawsuit against Oculus VR.

    Nearly three weeks after accusing Oculus VR and John Carmack of stealing their intellectual property, Zenimax and id Software have formally filed suit against the company in a Texas court.

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      May 21, 2014 12:20 PM

      What a sad death rattle this represents for id :(

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      May 21, 2014 12:24 PM

      well what a pisser

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      May 21, 2014 12:24 PM

      RIP QuakeCon.

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      May 21, 2014 1:17 PM

      ""We cannot ignore the unlawful exploitation of intellectual property that we develop and own"

      This made me giggle. If it wasn't for Carmack, id wouldn't of existed. What a bunch of scumbags.

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      May 21, 2014 1:38 PM

      id sues John Carmack. This is fucking sad.

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      May 21, 2014 1:45 PM

      Update: Oculus has responded, telling Kotaku, "The lawsuit filed by ZeniMax has no merit whatsoever. As we have previously said, ZeniMax did not contribute to any Oculus technology. Oculus will defend these claims vigorously."

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        May 21, 2014 2:04 PM

        Boilerplate language. This will settle out of court a couple months before OVR hits retail.

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      May 21, 2014 1:45 PM

      Not a legal expert but I read about half of the lawsuit and it sounds like Luckey might have fucked up in a few ways early on. Carmack may have as well. However, Zenimax was aware what was going on and just let it happen without any sort of formal agreement of compensation, so I feel like they forfeited the right to claim infringement to some degree. At least I'd like to believe that. Courts probably won't see it that way.

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        May 21, 2014 1:47 PM

        This.

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        May 21, 2014 2:23 PM

        [deleted]

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        May 21, 2014 3:02 PM

        It's interesting that Carmack isn't listed as a defendant in this lawsuit. If he had restrictions on soliciting Zenimax employees, and if any IP he made while working there was owned by Zenimax, why isn't he listed? Clearly they don't feel they have a case against him.

        It seems all this hinges on Zenimax claiming that Oculus has disclosed "knowhow" in violation of the NDA. It's not clear that they have though, as there's no evidence they've disclosed anything; they've simply been bought by a third party who has now assumed all their undertakings. They're not using the disclosed information to gain any competitive advantage either, because Zenimax decided to cancel all VR work. I guess Zenimax is arguing that they never agreed a "Proper Purpose" for the disclosed knowhow.

        There's also all that copyright and trademark stuff to do with how the Rift was marketed, but that just seems slapped on for good measure.

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          May 21, 2014 3:12 PM

          Oh man, just read the actual bit:

          135. Luckey disclosed Contract-Protected Information to third-parties, including
          Oculus, without expressly-authorized permission or authorization from ZeniMax. Oculus knew
          and had reason to know that Luckey received such information pursuant to the Non-Disclosure
          Agreement.

          That sounds pretty crazy. Zenimax knew he was working with Carmack in order to develop the Rift at Oculus; it's not like he was just chatting with Carmack for the love!

          But yea, their substantive point is that they reckon that they believe the NDA should have allowed them to dictate to Oculus:

          135. Luckey disclosed Contract-Protected Information to third-parties, including
          Oculus, without expressly-authorized permission or authorization from ZeniMax. Oculus knew
          and had reason to know that Luckey received such information pursuant to the Non-Disclosure
          Agreement.

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        May 21, 2014 3:55 PM

        Yeah it's interesting reading. There's some eye-rolling weaselphrasing in there, even if taken at face value, but it includes a fair number of fact-checkable events that seem pretty dubious on Oculus' part.

        In the end I doubt it matters much to almost anyone. Some amount of money will change hands, Oculus will continue to do whatever it is doing, and life goes on.

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        May 22, 2014 1:50 AM

        Unless Carmack had a contract with is employer, and maybe he did because he is special, everything that he comes up with while employed at Zenimax was probably owned by Zenimax. A lot of game companies have their employees sign something that says any ideas they have, or thoughts, or anything they make is owned by the company.

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      May 21, 2014 2:10 PM

      Lots of logical fallacies in that document. That is for sure.

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      May 21, 2014 2:21 PM

      [deleted]

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        May 21, 2014 6:33 PM

        Among the alternatives were selling id to Activision, or selling id to EA. What do you think the outcomes of those would have been?

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      May 21, 2014 2:22 PM

      Let me guess, East Texas court?

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        May 21, 2014 2:56 PM

        No, this is not a patent case.

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        May 21, 2014 3:02 PM

        Dallas, actually. They use our case management software. That's cool I guess.

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      May 21, 2014 2:27 PM

      They gotta get that id acquisition money back somehow, and it's not gonna happen by selling id games.

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        May 21, 2014 2:38 PM

        Sad lol

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        May 21, 2014 2:51 PM

        certainly not any more it's not

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        May 21, 2014 2:51 PM

        Seems so easy though, focus on the gameplay that worked well for decades. Stop trying to make Call of Doom and boring desert wasteland games with admittedly fun go cart driving.

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        May 21, 2014 3:17 PM

        I still have faith in Doom4. Id has some of the best artists in the industry, and with Willets not at the gameplay helm, I feel better.

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          May 21, 2014 3:50 PM

          Kevin Cloud is the god damned MAN.

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          May 21, 2014 5:49 PM

          I'm really interested in how it turns out. I don't expect it to be good...but it should be interesting. Does that make sense?

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            May 21, 2014 6:45 PM

            At this point, it's like a mad science experiment, seeing if the crazy development process will result in something good, or if it will succumb to the hellish grind that is "The 7th / 8th Console Generation Multiplatform AAA Video Dame Development Industry under the Ownership of a Megapublisher".

            I wish the developers at Id well, but I also wish them sympathy for the dumb business posturing and ivory-tower mismanagement perpetrated upon them by Zenimax. The ones who are staying at Id probably have it worse than the ones who have left.

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      May 21, 2014 2:51 PM

      Lawsuits of this general type are just baffling to me. The clear implication is that a knowledge worker is barred from working at any similar company. Not only is this ethically questionable and in clear violation of the spirit of fair labor, but it has a chilling effect on innovation when companies can hire people just to take them out of the competitive labor pool with no intention of actually using their skills.

      IP laws are just straight up bullshit most of the time.

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        May 21, 2014 4:45 PM

        If you hire someone, and you provide them with equipment, and licensed software, and time and support staff, and pay their salary for a year or two while they work on new ideas; and then as soon as they develop something cool, they quit and take that project to a competitor or sell it themselves, would that be okay to you? That's the core issue with these suits. You're paying them to build an idea, and that takes money and time. You can't physically force them to leave an idea behind if they quit. But if they quit, you've lost your entire investment. Even worse, you've now created a race to the bottom: it would be in every company's interest to just poach employees to steal these ideas, rather than develop their own.

        I'm not saying Zenimax is right here (haven't read the briefs, don't know) but you're overstating the issue a lot.

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          May 21, 2014 5:00 PM

          But if they quit, you've lost your entire investment.

          Except, you know, all of the stuff they did while they were working there. If they weren't creating more value than they were taking up while there, then you should have fired them before they left. Ideas are like assholes, and worth about as much. It's up to you as an employer to be sure you can take advantage of any ideas your employees develop, whether they stay to see them through or not.

          Even worse, you've now created a race to the bottom: it would be in every company's interest to just poach employees to steal these ideas, rather than develop their own.

          No, you've created a race to the top for employees with advanced skillsets. Their abilities will be adequately compensated if in demand, rather than artificially capped.

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            May 21, 2014 5:45 PM

            Right. You pay people for the work they're able to do with their knowledge. If you have interesting concepts developed at your company, then you patent them. You don't just try to get everybody you've ever hired on lockdown so that they have no other employment options.

            I don't get why everybody is so sympathetic with employers these days. They need the help now less than they have in a long time.

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              May 21, 2014 7:31 PM

              I don't think its sympathy for the employers as much as its an understanding of contractual obligations. Employer A hires you and you sign a contract that everything you learn or develop while there is typically their property or they have first rights to it. A lot of times you may come up with something that was generated by working with or doing something else on company time and that means its theirs. its all kinda crappy but its the risk you run when you decide to sign that contract, because in essence they are taking the risk on you working out for them and you just want their money and tools.

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                May 21, 2014 8:10 PM

                Again, the implication is that the employer owns all of your knowledge, because it's essentially impossible to prove when you learned something when so much of what you learn is self-study. And they apparently own it indefinitely. They have the power to sue when you apply anything you know related to that field in another job. So I learned a lot of JavaScript at one job; does my employer then own my knowledge of JavaScript, making it impossible for me to employ those skills in another job? This is a great vehicle for vindictive employers to punish people who leave.

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                  May 21, 2014 8:12 PM

                  And in this case, the direct analogy in this situation is that my employer doesn't want me to use my JavaScript knowledge at this job but instead wants me to write only CSS, but is still able to sue me for whatever JavaScript I write at another job.

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          May 21, 2014 5:05 PM

          I think you make some good points.

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      May 21, 2014 2:57 PM

      Two things:
      1. Anyone that says that Carmack is not relevant anymore just have no clue how brilliant he is and what work he has done apart from engine programming. His close work with video card makers has made a huge difference.
      2. If it's true what this document says, Oculus would not have been anything that it is without the work that Carmack did during work time at id, which by contract indeed makes ZeniMax the owner of anything he created or did. Also, it's evident that ZeniMax provided much of the vital tech to make it work at all. ZeniMax's stupid mistake is that they kept feeding Oculus with tech and resources, despite how obvious it was that Oculus played dirty all along. Question is, how much did Carmack do on his "spare" time during work hours at id? Alot, byt hte looks of it. This is a mess.

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        May 21, 2014 4:14 PM

        Has it been confirmed that Carmack was under such a contract? I really find it hard to believe that someone with his pull would HAVE to, or agreed to sign something like that.

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          May 21, 2014 4:24 PM

          That's pretty much the default for an employee. Anything you do with company resources is company property.

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            May 21, 2014 4:49 PM

            Using company resources is a big question, but any IP you develop usually has to be within the company's line of business. So if you work for Google, but you write a great novel on your work laptop, Google can't really demand that they own that copyright (they might fire you for using company property for personal work). Similarly, if you work at Apple and go to you boss and say "Hey, I think I can write an AMAZING 2d retro shooter!" and your boss says that's not what Apple does and you better get back to work, and then you make it and it succeeds, Apple will have a pretty weak case against you.

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            May 21, 2014 5:31 PM

            It may be "default" but only if you agree to it.

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            May 22, 2014 2:03 AM

            That is the default for an employee but he is a special case where he could have negotiated a different contract. Not sure if he did or not though.

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      May 21, 2014 4:39 PM

      Zenimax's lawyers had better work their balls off all day.

      And then they should stay up all night to get Luckey.

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      May 21, 2014 7:27 PM

      This is so weird...the slow death of id is such a weird fucking thing...its something I never would have imagined in the late 90's or early 2000's. They've been slowly dying for a while I guess...but I've always hoped for them to pull it together.

      Id was one of the most significant companies during its heyday...hell, shacknews started off as fucking Quakeholio ffs. This would have been unimaginable back in the day, it would be like Blizzard dying off, or Valve. Hell, it would almost be as much a mind-fuck as Nintendo dying off.

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        May 21, 2014 7:29 PM

        Nintendo will die within 5 yrs bro sorry to tell you.

        Also, you are right. Raging Bull in video game company form.

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          May 21, 2014 7:48 PM

          As far as I know Nintendo is still lucrative and has like 5 billion cash on hand. They have some of the most coveted franchise in gaming as well... Their latest home console was obviously a failure but that doesn't mean they are dying.

          I will admit that I don't see a bright future for nintendo consoles because of sony/microsoft as well as mobile phones and tablets, but they always have the option to focus exclusively on software.

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          May 21, 2014 7:56 PM

          Nintendo has some crazy stat like they could lose money for 30 years and still have money in the bank.

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          May 21, 2014 9:23 PM

          Doubtful.

          http://www.gamesradar.com/nintendo-doomed-not-likely-just-take-look-how-much-money-its-got-bank/

          "Buried in reams of financial data is the revelation that Nintendo have 812.8 billion Yen (£6.7/$10.5 billion) in the bank - enough for it to take a 20 billion Yen loss (£163/$257 million) every year until 2052. Then there's almost 469 billion Yen (£3.8/$6.0 billion) held in premises, equipment and investments. When that runs out - we're in the year 2075 by this point - they've got some of the most valuable intellectual property in gaming to sell off before the company goes out of business."

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          May 22, 2014 6:20 AM

          They could probably quit the console line and survive off their handheld for decades.

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        May 21, 2014 8:09 PM

        The last vestige of the Valve we once knew was Portal 2. After that it's been nothing but Steam platform work and DOTA 2.

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          May 21, 2014 8:11 PM

          I didn't realize you were privy to all of Valve's future unannounced projects. Please, share more with us.

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          May 21, 2014 9:31 PM

          meh, even Portal 2 was meh

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            May 21, 2014 10:51 PM

            What the flying fuck?

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            May 22, 2014 4:35 AM

            It's ok you can sit in the corner over there with the people that hate games.

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            May 22, 2014 6:24 AM

            ...the feek?!??

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          May 21, 2014 11:11 PM

          Half life 3 is coming. Us DOTAers gave them enough money via the compendium to finish it.

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        May 21, 2014 8:19 PM

        In some aspects, but id in its current form is the largest its ever been. In terms of employees. If Doom 4 sucks then id is dead, but I'm hoping it kicks ass to displease the naysayers.

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          May 21, 2014 8:55 PM

          They probably understood this, and that's why they scrapped what they had so far. I'm thinking I'm glad they did.

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          May 21, 2014 9:22 PM

          Actually if the Glassdoor reviews are to be believed, they've shed two thirds of their staff in the last two years and are down to around 50 people. They're outsourcing the Doom multiplayer because of it.

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        May 21, 2014 8:53 PM

        We're so jaded as a whole no one really cares as it unfolds, then it hits you like a brick one day.

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        May 21, 2014 9:14 PM

        Sierra, Apogee, Microprose, 3DR, etc. Tons of "big" and "iconic" game studios have died or been absorbed. After Doom 3 you could tell it was pretty much over for id and that nothing great was going to come from them again.

        Carmack might be great at technical stuff, but the realization into a full story driven game in todays market... not so much.

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        May 21, 2014 10:16 PM

        id became obsolete when other engines caught up with them. They were kings of their own little world because no one could touch Doom and Quake's engines.

        Once competitive arena multiplayer started dying off, and particularly when id took a crack at proper single player games, their faults became readily apparent.

        Doom3 and Rage aren't terrible games, but aside from nice engines, they're pretty bland.

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          May 21, 2014 11:28 PM

          I'm bummed about the decline of competitive arena multiplayer games...id did them better than anyone else and I think we're due to revisit that style of gameplay.

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        May 22, 2014 2:12 AM

        I genuinely liked rage. I just wish they had taken the time to give it a proper ending. The DLC was pretty rad too.

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      May 21, 2014 10:08 PM

      What exactly is being infringed upon?

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        May 22, 2014 1:52 AM

        i think they claim carmack is using code he wrote while under contract with zenimax/id

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          May 22, 2014 6:29 AM

          Not just code. Previously developed hardware and techniques as well.

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      May 22, 2014 7:16 AM

      Obvious money grab. Zenimax wants a piece of that pie. And they're probably going to get it since it's cheaper to just throw then a bone rather than spend 5 years in pointless legal battles.

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