New Zenimax Lawsuit Documents Accuse John Carmack Of Theft and Palmer Luckey of Misrepresentation

Carmack allegedly stole 'thousands of documents' from a computer at Zenimax during his final days of employment. 


It looks like Zenimax and Oculus aren't playing nice right now when it comes to a suit from all the way back since May 2014, according to a new report from Game Informer. The suit has named both Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe and id Software's John Carmack, alleging chief technology officer Carmack of "copying thousands of documents from a computer at Zenimax to a USB device," according to court documents detailing the accusations.

What's more, supposedly Carmack never gave those files back after he was let go from Zenimax. Then, supposedly he came back to take a tool for developing VR technology that was instrumental in Zenimax's plans.

In addition, the suit alleges that Palmer Luckey is not, contrary to popular belief, the "inventor" of virtual reality and instead it had been developed by Zenimax without Luckey at all. What Luckey supposedly did was act as a figurehead for virtual reality with the media and the public.

Brendan Iribe is charged, in fact, with creating a story about Luckey coming up with his VR concepts while working in his parents' garage. The suit suggests this is false and that he would have lacked the "training, expertise, resources, or know-how" for "commercially viable" VR technology.

Oculus has reached out to Game Informer for comment on the situation, noting that the complaint Zenimax has filed is "one-sided" and only tells one side of the story.

"We continue to believe this case has no merit, and we will address all of Zenimax's allegations in court," offered a representative from Oculus.

This doesn't look good for Oculus and company, but as their representative attests, this is only one half of the story. It'll be interesting to see what develops from the suit as things proceed further in court. Hopefully it will reach an amicable resolution for all in the future. 

Senior Editor

Fueled by horror, rainbow-sugar-pixel-rushes, and video games, Brittany is a Senior Editor at Shacknews who thrives on surrealism and ultraviolence. Follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake and check out her portfolio for more. Like a fabulous shooter once said, get psyched!

From The Chatty
    • reply
      August 22, 2016 6:39 PM

      Luckey increasingly and falsely held himself out to the media and the public as the visionary developer of the Rift’s VR Technology, which had actually been developed by ZeniMax without any substantial contribution from Luckey.

      So who are they saying was the real creator of the Rift's VR technology? Carmack? Someone else?

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        August 22, 2016 6:43 PM

        This accusation seems almost libelous to me, but considering the counsel for the Plaintiffs, I think they are feeling pretty good about it.

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          August 22, 2016 6:45 PM

          Thy are going for a big settlement or really confident about a jury trial.

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          August 22, 2016 6:49 PM

          It did have an oddly condescending quality to it.

          "aww look at the widdle fella out in his garage strapping an iPhone to his swimming goggles! meanwhile real men are putting together VR in the smoky backroom lab at the Zeniplex, anonymous and grim."

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            August 22, 2016 6:57 PM

            A little?

            Luckey lacked the training, expertise, resources, or know-how to create commercially viable VR technology, his computer programming skills were rudimentary, and he relied on ZeniMax's computer program code and games to demonstrate the prototype Rift

            This is quite contrary to his education and experience listed on his Wikipedia page, which has decent references. Yeah, the guy never got a full on Engineering degree, but he certainly had the capacity to take a display from a cell phone and get a couple off-the-shelf biconvex lenses and make it do something special.

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              August 22, 2016 6:59 PM

              So are they saying that Carmack worked on Rift VR code while still at Zenimax, and took it with him?

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                August 22, 2016 7:01 PM

                It certainly seems that way. They are trying to position Carmack, whom Zenimax obviously considers their asset under contract as the real genius. Luckey was just along for the ride.

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                  August 22, 2016 7:08 PM

                  So he tried to steal Apple II computers in high school, developed games on Softdisk time before jumping ship, stole Carmack's Reverse from Creative Labs, and now this!

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                    August 23, 2016 2:50 AM

                    Who will stop his multi-decade nerd-crime spree

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                  August 22, 2016 7:26 PM

                  I get the feeling that Zenimax considers Carmack himself their property, which is such bullshit.

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                    August 22, 2016 10:05 PM

                    For the duration of his contract with Zenimax... Broadly speaking he was. Or at least his work was.

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                August 22, 2016 8:13 PM

                That's what they claimed two or three years ago.

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          August 22, 2016 7:17 PM

          Comments made in the course of litigation are almost always protected by absolute privilege.

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        August 22, 2016 8:26 PM

        they're full of it. there are forum posts from him going back six to eight years trying to find a solution to shitty HMDs and his progress on it.

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          August 22, 2016 8:55 PM

          Palmer's paper trail is just as extensive on his independent work too. He was at USC in their holodeck project before he ever talked to Carmack. He also documented all of his design iterations up to the point of the one he sent Carmack. It's true that Carmack did the software but as others have pointed out, he's too smart to re-use protected code. Carmack also added the strap used in the prototype he first showed.

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            August 22, 2016 9:07 PM

            Err oops, wrong reply. But yeah they both have lots of evidence working independently starting from crappy VR headsets and going from there.

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            August 22, 2016 10:08 PM

            No, you're solid. Like I mentioned, Luckey's experience and education is documented. So he never finished an engineering degree, a shame. That hasn't stopped a lot of people from introducing new technology to the world.

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      August 22, 2016 6:46 PM

      whoa what???

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      August 22, 2016 7:34 PM


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        August 22, 2016 8:29 PM

        he did in the infancy, but I doubt any of that code was usable in any product oculus put out. carmack has been around too long to be that dumb.

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        August 22, 2016 8:37 PM

        SPECULATION: Or, Carmack's work in this area was part of why they bought iD in the first place, and then he took it with him without permission.

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      August 22, 2016 11:53 PM

      This doesn't look good for Oculus? Have you seen proof? There is enough proof on the internet alone to disprove the accusations about Palmer and Iribe, at least. The Carmack issue is trickier.

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        August 23, 2016 12:17 AM

        Brittany wrote this article in a very buzzfeed/gawker style, it appears :/

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        August 23, 2016 1:42 AM

        Carmack must really regret selling his company :/

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          August 23, 2016 2:37 AM

          Zenimax is a terrible company. Their CEO was indicted for fraud, and was permanently banned from banking.

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            August 23, 2016 4:14 AM

            It's run entirely by lawyers.

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            August 23, 2016 6:10 AM

            Has any games company you can think of, ever sold to a bigger place and its been a GOOD move.

            All the ones I can think of it pretty much destroyed the company (RIP Bullfrog, one of the nicest places I ever worked at until EA took over...)

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              August 23, 2016 7:26 AM

              How much bigger? The original studio that created diablo sold to blizzard.

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                August 23, 2016 7:29 AM


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                  August 23, 2016 8:11 AM

                  Blizzard sold to Davidson & Associates (the Math Blaster company) before anybody knew who they were.

                  Then Davidson & Associates was bought along with Sierra On-Line by some conglomerate, which merged with another giant faceless corporation to form Centant, which fell apart in an accounting fraud scandal, so they sold Blizzard and Sierra to Havas which was then bought by Vivendi, who later merged with Activision.

                  Blizzard's been acquired by more companies (and more shitty companies) than you'd think possible, and somehow still put out consistently pretty good games. I think most people would agree their Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, Overwatch and spinoff series are all superior products to what they produced as an independent developer (only RPM Racing, Lost Vikings and Rock n' Roll Racing).

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                August 23, 2016 8:26 AM

                Then ended up getting merged in as Blizzard North, then got disbanded after losing creative control to their product (Diablo). Don't think that can be considered a success for them.

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      August 23, 2016 6:57 AM

      Can't say I care how this goes either way. Most people here are going to side with the personality, JC, over Zenimax the big bad corporation.
      But if I had to go out on any limb, my thought is that Zenimax probably has a legitimate, strong case here. I'd be worried if I were Carmackulus Corp

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        August 23, 2016 8:45 AM

        It's not siding with the personality for me, so much as I remember following this early on in the Meant to be Seen 3D threads where Palmer first talked about it and started showing his prototypes, well before Carmack ever replied, and basically Zenimax's claims about that part are absolute bullshit.

        If the parts I was aware of are bullshit, it makes me wonder if the stuff I'm not privy to is any less so.

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      August 23, 2016 9:25 AM

      I had no idea that the Winklevoss twins owned Zenimax...

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      August 23, 2016 9:49 AM

      Bold of them...

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