So This Is Happening: Zenimax Sues Oculus

By Nathan Grayson on May 21st, 2014 at 10:00 pm.

Given the way things have been going, I suppose this was basically inevitable. In the wake of some very serious John Carmack hardware-related allegations from ZeniMax, the Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Wolfenstein publisher has dropped a megaton legal bomb. It’s suing virtual reality kingpin (and recent Facebook acquisition) Oculus Rift for “illegally misappropriating ZeniMax trade secrets relating to virtual reality technology, and infringing ZeniMax copyrights and trademarks.” Oculus, meanwhile, continues to claim ZeniMax’s claims are entirely without merit. Claim claim claim clamber clams. Now there’s an idea. Instead of duking it out in a legal cagefight, maybe everyone should just sit down around a nice, fresh plate of clams. Talk things out nice and civil-like while loudly slurping the precious flesh meats of a lowly sea creature.

But no, this is probably gonna be terrible.

Here’s ZeniMax’s announcement, which is about as cut-and-dry as they come on these sorts of matters:

“ZeniMax Media Inc. and its subsidiary, id Software LLC, filed suit today against Oculus VR, Inc. and its founder, Palmer Luckey, for illegally misappropriating ZeniMax trade secrets relating to virtual reality technology, and infringing ZeniMax copyrights and trademarks. ZeniMax is also asserting claims for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and unfair competition against the defendants. The suit was filed in federal court in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.”

“The suit arises from the defendants’ unlawful exploitation of intellectual property, including trade secrets, copyrighted computer code, and technical know-how relating to virtual reality technology that was developed by ZeniMax after years of research and investment. ZeniMax provided this valuable intellectual property to defendants under a binding Non-Disclosure Agreement that specifies such intellectual property is owned exclusively by ZeniMax and cannot be used, disclosed, or transferred to third parties without ZeniMax’s approval. ZeniMax’s intellectual property has provided the fundamental technology driving the Oculus Rift since its inception. Nevertheless, the defendants refused all requests from ZeniMax for reasonable compensation and continue to use ZeniMax’s intellectual property without authorization.”

“All efforts by ZeniMax to resolve this matter amicably have been unsuccessful. Oculus has recently issued a public statement remarkably claiming that ‘ZeniMax has never contributed IP or technology to Oculus.’ Meanwhile, Luckey has held himself out to the public as the visionary developer of virtual reality technology, when in fact the key technology Luckey used to establish Oculus was developed by ZeniMax.”

Yikes. That last paragraph, especially – those are some fighting words followed by a dismissive gob of tobacco-tarred saliva bullet-spat into a bucket. “Ding!” it sounds, both beginning the fight and mixing my metaphors.

ZeniMax also sent over its court documents, which paint a picture of a timeline in which John Carmack became interested in the Rift pre-Kickstarter, and he and other ZeniMax employees provided important technical information to Palmer Luckey both before and after the crowdfunding drive. ZeniMax also apparently modified the Rift in the lead up to the release of Doom 3: BFG Edition, which, ZeniMax claims, “represented an enormous technical advance in the development of virtual reality entertainment.”

Apparently Oculus and ZeniMax spent 2012 and 2013 discussing how Oculus would compensate ZeniMax for the modified VR tech, but then Oculus found financial backing and talks with ZeniMax ceased.

ZeniMax also takes credit for the popularity of the Rift by way of showcases at events like E3, which it arranged and promoted. By ZeniMax’s logic, then, the Rift is an intellectual property “that ZeniMax had created, and that [Oculus] had taken.” Because I guess providing aid now means you were wholly and individually responsible for something. Business is really confusing, you guys. And infuriating.

In response, Oculus issued a statement of complete denial. ”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.”

So that’s it, then. To court everyone goes. Or maybe they’ll settle it out of court at the last second, but something’s got to give. So far, neither side is letting the other have an inch, let alone a mile, so I don’t expect this to go down without things getting messy.

And while Oculus claims ZeniMax is blathering on about nothing, I highly doubt it’d willfully play David vs Goliath (or really, Goliath vs Significantly Bigger Goliath) against Facebook without some sort of ace up its sleeve. But when two companies that – regardless of policies and reputation – make great stuff come to blows, it’s tough to say anybody wins. Here’s hoping this resolves quickly.

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Top comments

  1. ResonanceCascade says:

    It’s like Clash of the Titans, except one is a titan and the other one is a medium sized video game publisher from Maryland.

    I’ll just take the popcorn on this one while the rich guys fight it out.

  1. rcguitarist says:

    Zenimax will probably try and place a legal hold on Oculus’ further development of the Rift that will last until the case is resolved. If so, it may be years before we see the Rift hit the market.

    • HypnoToadEsq says:

      Zenimax will certainly ask for one, but I actually don’t see much justification for one here. Zenimax doesn’t have a competing product on the market, and their damages are likely limited to any profits made by the Rift. Those profits can be tracked without the need for an injunction prohibiting sales. Courts don’t like to issue broad injunctions like that, so I think it’s unlikely that a long-term injunction will issue without a really strong showing by Zenimax that one is necessary.

    • sophof says:

      They would have to get much more concrete in their claims for that. Notice how even in their ‘fightin words’ in the last paragraph they don’t actually say what Oculus ‘stole’.

      My guess is they are aiming for a settlement, but I doubt they’ll get it.

    • drewski says:

      Nope. They’ve not asked for an injunction preventing further development or sale at all. Just money.

      • HypnoToadEsq says:

        They don’t have to ask for the injunction in the Complaint, but they will have to ask for it soon.

  2. Dozer says:

    People always seem to misunderstand the point of David and Goliath. Shepherd-boy with .22 rifle versus a Main Battle Tank, the tank cannot not win. Except when the shepherd-boy is clearly and unambiguously aligned with and operating under the direction of the all-powerful creator of the Universe, the God-of-the-angel-armies,in which case there’s no chance at all for the tank. Are you expecting divine intervention on behalf of Zenimax, because that’s what is implied when you say it’s David vs Goliath!

    • Chuckleluck says:

      “I created this beautiful universe and you’d rather sit in a corner wearing VR goggles?” [Throws lawsuit lightning bolt]

    • Martel says:

      Although wasn’t it really tiny guy with ranged weapon > than giant guy with no face armor?

      • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

        I honestly thought it was just a nice piece of script for cartoons.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        It was a guy with the Ancient Times equivalent of a sniper rifle, who had already become famous in his home town for killing lions and wolves with said rifle-equivalent, vs. a guy who was really good with swords and spears. Using a sling to aim with precision is not easy, but if you have the skill to use it, it was unbeatable at range.

        The point was not that anything explicitly miraculous happened in that specific fight, but rather that Goliath went up against a shepherd instead of a soldier and that shepherd had the precise skill-set to defeat Goliath on the terms of the fight, instead of all the the non-sling-trained soldiers who would have been killed if they had tried to sword-fight. It’s a story about power (guy with biggest sword) being trumped by courage and wisdom (bringing a gun to a sword fight), rather than “miraculous luck” or “virtuous underdog” trumping power.

        Also, David chopped Goliath’s head off immediately afterwards, to make sure.

        Also, David did manage to kill a bunch of guys using more traditional tactics on other occasions, this was just the fight that became the most famous.

        • gwathdring says:

          While it is difficult to say, given how easily the illusion is propagated, that it was not intended as a story about underdogs and hope it is certainly most *usefully* understood as a story about using the right tool for the job and about how power has limits that can be exploited with proper application of alternative modes of power.

          That said, I’m not much of a Malcom Gladwell fan in general though it’s possible you’re sourcing that concept from within your own mind or from yet another source. It doesn’t much matter where you got it from; a good thought is a good thought. :)

    • goon buggy says:

      Id < ;)
      still take that chance to bitch slap smug looking carmack upside the head

    • The Random One says:

      So you haven’t heard that Oculus was bought by Facebook?

  3. Freud says:

    Aptly named product then.

  4. Wedge says:

    Does this mean Zenimax owns a spaceship too, because Carmack existed under their employ at some point, and thus everything he’s ever done is theirs?

  5. Chuckleluck says:

    Ehh. I’m really not that concerned. Oculus lost me when they were bought out by Facebook, and now it’s social media giant and video game giant throwing cash at each other. Unless this somehow hampers The Elder Scrolls VI, I have little interest.

    • Sleepymatt says:

      Ever stopped to think that perhaps this is WHY they sold out to Facebook in such a hurry? There’s nothing that greases the wheels of a sale like knowing there’s an incoming lawsuit you need to finance….

      • Syphus says:

        Good point. I don’t really care much about the sale, but still good point.

  6. DrManhatten says:

    Hurray sue Facebook and Carmack into the ground! Couldn’t happen to anyone better!

    • bj says:

      Facebook I can understand, but where does the Carmack hate come from?

      • MadTinkerer says:

        I used to dislike the fact that he alienated all the people who helped him get to where he was, but then it turned out that most of them had problematic personality issues too, and it was mostly just a tragic case of too much success, too fast, too many egos.

        A lot of others like to bash Carmack just because he ended up being the most influential game engine designer ever. Also, he was the last of the early 90s rock star style developers who hadn’t left or been kicked out of his company. But that was just success, not ego.

        • romeurosa says:

          I always thought Romero was more of the cocky rockstar type than Carmack. One of the reasons why I like Romero so much, and the hair… gotta love the hair!

  7. Polifemo says:

    Moral of the story:
    ” If they dont give you a piece of the baking pie, sue them until someone else makes a pie for you before they do or they give you your godamn pie”
    Or something.
    Who needs tecnological advancement anyway right? Corporations ahoy!

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      This is the sad thing. These fucktard money men and lawyers are more than happy to stall technological advancement of an industry they both have a vested interest in. Screw the consumers at the end of the chain as long as they can appease a board of shareholders and maybe get a pat on the back and a slightly bigger bonus.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        “appease a board of shareholders” is precisely the problem. To be fair to said lawyers and other Zenimax employees, those shareholders do technically own the company.

        It’s the reason why I keep saying things like “game development is incompatible with public ownership”. It always, always leads to the same crap happening, and is the biggest reason why Valve is one of the few exceptions. Gabe Newell is the emperor who insists that he is not an emperor and as long as he remains emperor, no one shall act as emperor. And it is only because he is the emperor that he can do that. If the emperor was a committee of people who paid a bunch of money to collectively be emperor and they hope to be able to sell their committee seat for a profit, like in most companies, madness ensues.

        • sophof says:

          Well the problem with shareholders is not that they ‘own’ anything imo, it is that they have objectives that not necessarily align with those of the company. Short term profit is very good for shareholders, even if it destroys the company in the long term for instance. They are not invested in a company the same way as someone is who started the company. It is what creates weird things like selling of parts of the company that make less, but consistent profit, basically trading long term profit and stability for a lot of cash right now and a better imaginary number on the stock exchange.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            Exactly. Poor performance for a year or two is likely to see changes on a board of directors and other higher ups. Therefore they aren’t interested at all in thinking years ahead. They are justifying their job right now because what’s the point in a 5 year plan if you were fired long before those 5 years were up. This is why the executive attitude is a complete counter to the attitude of game development which is a multi-year cycle.

            It is the same reason why we are seeing so much generic rubbish and bandwagoning (CoD clones etc). A company like Zenimax could afford to attempt some creative and original projects and let the talented developers they have do what they want. As a corporate entity they could take the hit of these projects failing in the long term knowing eventually they will make something great that will sell a bundle. However the executives refuse to do this because a failure could mean their job and their trophy wife, asshole son and bratty daughter all demand expensive things so they need that year end bonus. So the gaming industry ends up wholly fucked with generic crap and overmarketed garbage because of these dickheads and their self serving attitudes.

          • gwathdring says:

            Fully agree. Blaming public ownership is foolish; it isn’t having a committee that’s the problem here. What matters is the scale and shape of the incentivization for stewardship of the company.

            That might eventually come back to a similar sort of argument, but I think the distinction is important because however you word the heart of the problem, privately owned companies don’t necessarily have any more incentive to make good and innovative products than publicly owned companies.

  8. Michael Fogg says:

    Zenimax already trying to cover the losses from the TESO fiasco. *smugface*

  9. ResonanceCascade says:

    It’s like Clash of the Titans, except one is a titan and the other one is a medium sized video game publisher from Maryland.

    I’ll just take the popcorn on this one while the rich guys fight it out.

    • jrodman says:

      Likely the video game developer is looking for a handout. “Discovery is going to cost you 500,000. I’ll settle for three.”

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        That seems likely to me too, especially considering Robert Altman (not the good Robert Altman) has such a chequered past.

    • myelbow says:

      I’ll just take the popcorn on this one while the rich guys fight it out.

      Sadly, you practically have to be the rich guy to afford the popcorn these days. =/

  10. johnerick says:

    GET AUTOMATED MONEY KIT EMobile Code review

  11. Arglebargle says:

    I am sure that there are two coteries of lawyers that are quite happy with this new game.

  12. P.Funk says:

    I hate the entire concept of intellectual property.

    • nrvsNRG says:

      Yeah, we should all be able to share and profit from other peoples hard work with impunity.

      • P.Funk says:

        Yes, because thats exactly what anyone who hates the existing laws and their effects really means. *rolls eyes and gives the finger to Steve Jobs*

        • jrodman says:

          GET BACK INTO YOUR HOLE, PIGEON!

          (though I have to admit, hating the current laws is not equivalent to hating the concept. Personally I am on the fence among those two).

          • P.Funk says:

            The idea that you can own an idea is offensive. Period.

          • gwathdring says:

            You’re oversimplifying, though. Laws are practical. They have practical effects. Sometimes, achieving the ideological goal doesn’t read on paper as consistent with the ideology because laws have to take into account that people don’t always make perfect sense.

            Consider the following goal (and you may not agree with the goal, in which case consider the structure of the idea more than the content): we want companies and individuals to have incentive to create new and interesting products and to be able to forge a livelihood out of making new and interesting products possible through their efforts. Ok. Cool. How do we do that? In a system that depends on currency and capital (not to be conflated with a “capitalist system”; there is an important distinction), allowing for livelihood means allowing for monetary gain. In a system where the target audience of a profit has limited financial resources and/or limited need/desire for duplicate products, it means ensuring that other people can’t arbitrarily copy my product.

            To simplify that logic down to “owning an idea” is to make innumerable fallacies, chief among them that you’re treating a nice metaphor for that process (You have creative and financial monopoly over your product within reasons –> you own the idea of that product) as the process itself. It is useful and meaningful to call it “intellectual property” but to start with that phrase and work backwards is a mistake.

            It’s not about owning ideas, it is about controlling the way products are created so as to encourage the continued production of products and make sure product production doesn’t become so risky it becomes unstable. Part of managing that risk and making product production feasible is trying to protect limited monopolies over limited products.

            For my part, I have a great many issues with the specific implementation at work; but I have a great many issues with the way we prosecute murder too and I’m not about to wax lyrical about how it is an affront to the natural order of things that we dare to make physical activity illegal.

          • jrodman says:

            Welll…. none of the law clusters we have (copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret) are designed around owning an idea, nor are intended to confer ownership of ideas.

            However, in practice, sometimes this sort of thing is arranged for by a variety of methods including various uses and abuses of these laws.

            That does seem wrong to me, but I don’t know if that’s fundamental or cultural. Ownership of physical items doesn’t seem fundamental to me, so i’m not sure why non-ownership of ideas would be.

            Personally though, I find it gross. Especially the part where party 1 says they own ideas that are currently in party 2′s head. Patents are the most frequently abused tools in this area at the moment.

          • P.Funk says:

            “You’re oversimplifying, though.”

            No I’m not. Implement intellectual property laws or some facsimile based on the main ideological underpinning across human history and I daresay we end up with a more sterile history and a great deal of our progress stunted. Its not as if anyone actually believes that intellectual property would actually protect the creators of ideas from being fucked over as they often are. Its just another law to protect those with money who can use it as another tool to sue people with less money to ensure they keep their stake.

            I firmly believe that those who most strongly push for strong intellectual property laws are not believers in market competition, they are believers in protecting established wealth with an unnatural degree of security. People with money are min maxers. Why compete in a market when you can just make it illegal for someone else to compete with you when you were first to the top of the hill?

            Case in point is the endless lawsuit wars between the major mobile corporations. They sue each other in every single jurisdiction they can. To them lawsuits are another strategy in achieving market domination, its not something as simple as protecting their rights. They would use the law as they could regardless of what they believe is actually theirs.

            When a guy like Steve Jobs is a major force behind the conception of this idea and he wants to patent the most basic of shit like gui interactions you go beyond the point of reasonable protections. Wasn’t there some thing about using the whole index finger and thumb to zoom pictures being patented or ought to have been?

            Bunch of bullshit.

            Its this simple. For so long as access to justice is firewalled behind wealth no law is fair, and this is because the system is so broken that its basically in the hands of the wealthy who write laws to suit them. However you choose to phrase a law to protect people it doesn’t matter because you can sue someone and make the litigation so lengthy that the little man with a good case can still lose in the end.

            I remain unconvinced. You’re right, laws are practical and the practical result is unmistakable.

          • xao says:

            If you don’t think that “The idea that you can own an idea is offensive. Period” is oversimplification of intellectual property law, then you have an insufficient understanding of the concept of intellectual property.

      • vivlo says:

        i like you

      • DXN says:

        Actually that sounds like the basis for a rather nice society.

  13. Cruzer says:

    Zenimax feenin for that Facebook money. They’re gonna be more disappointed than the people who pre-ordered ESO.

  14. Doganpc says:

    It doesn’t matter who wins, we lose.
    Zenimax wins: Oculus liscensing fees likely push it beyond mass market price point and it dies due to its limited distribution.
    Oculus wins: Zenimax refuses to accomodate VR despite having already invested some interest in it limiting the number of available titles and driving the price of VR games up due to limited supply.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Ehh.. I’d say that we lose if Zenimax wins. If they lose it’s their loss if they don’t include VR support. That, plus the fact that it’ll be just Zenimax. All the other publishers should be fine with it (if they were before).

    • Malarious says:

      Losing Zenimax is pretty much meaningless in the grand scheme. Doom 3 BFG would’ve been cool, sure, but it wouldn’t have been a hardware-seller. There are literally thousands of developers who are already making things for the Oculus; hobbyists and big names alike. This just means the next Elder Scrolls probably won’t have Oculus support, but if it catches on (like it probably should), the Elder Scrolls after it will almost certainly support it.

      • HadToLogin says:

        You missed “official” word there – knowing TES people, they will mod VR support right after they mod naked titties and before naked peepees.

        People already play Skyrim VR.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Yep I can do without VR Elder Scrolls tbh. Zenimax can go fuck themselves.

  15. Longshot says:

    Look at Carmac’s cheeky face, I just want to pinch his cheek, the little scamp.

    • Hebrind says:

      I don’t, I think he looks a bit like Dexter. If I pinched his cheek, I’d expect to be kidnapped and neatly murdered within a week.

      • Ich Will says:

        Dexter only (mildest of spoilers ahoy) killed serial killers, so you therefore are confessing now to being one!

        • xx says:

          He accidentally killed a playboy once too though…

          • HadToLogin says:

            Spoiler: He also murdered someone, by choice, knowing his victim isn’t a killer.

    • Ryuuga says:

      Oh, that smarmy Carmack-face. Smarmack-face. http://i.imgur.com/e8blYtE.jpg

  16. DonkeyCity says:

    Obviously we won’t know more until the case, but Luckey was publicly establishing the Rift long before he met up with Carmack, so it’s hard not to see that last statement from Zenimax as anything but utter nonsense.

  17. Moraven says:

    I bet they got upset their IP is being used at Chuck E Cheese.

  18. particlese says:

    I have a legitimate but possibly horribly-misinformed question and rant. (If anyone lurks around mtbs3d or just generally has a better handle on this stuff, please set me straight!)

    Didn’t Palmer come up with the core concept and hardware himself, whereas John Carmack just worked some of his software magic on it once that was in place? I can see how the core idea would be patentable since it’s a pretty novel solution to the problem of needing expensive optics for VR, but the software John came up with initially, while important, just seems like an obvious follow-on. I don’t know/remember exactly what he did, but I’m thinking of the motion tracking and the implementation of software-based compensation for static optical aberrations. As far as I know, that’s as far as Doom 3 and the Oculus demos of the time got. While not a trivial problem to solve, the approach and execution should be reasonably straightforward for any physicist (for example) to work out, given enough ramen and caffeinated beverage of choice. Same for anyone who has worked on camera lens correction or sensor-based motion tracking software, depending on which problem they’re solving. The amount of prior art and academic research for that stuff boggles the mind. I really hope they bring up those items so they can be shot down. And sure, John came up with a lot more inventive and helpful stuff, but Valve and others made their own significant contributions, and I very much doubt Zenimax funded anything innovative on the hardware side. (Possibly “here, buy better gubbins”, but Oculus had other investment, even besides Kickstarter backers.) Unless there was some secret stuff going on at Zenimax (possible), there’s no way they should be able to get a piece of the Facepie unless everyone else and their mom do, too.

    I hate to see stuff like this happen since it will do nothing but spread FUD and slow things down, but I will still be interested to see how it all plays out. I’m hoping all claims are quickly destroyed by prior art and/or Sony sneaks in and puts tacks on Zenimax’s chairs. Not that I like Facebook, but jeeze. Unless Zenimax really did make a creative contribution to the Rift, in which case I hope they have something super-stong to back them up! But probably RAWR at greedy controlling shareholders and stuff. Part of me feels bad about not looking up the details, but smarter/lawyerier/redditier people will be doing plenty of that, I’m sure. For now, I reckon I know just enough to confuse.

    Edit: Good lord, I need to stop typing things. High five if you read all that, I guess.

    • toxic avenger says:

      That’s a lot of (admitted) assumptions you have there.

      • particlese says:

        Yeah, I do feel bad about that, spreading my own flavour of FUD and all. However, I would like to see more critical/constructive conversation than “omg zenimax sux” or “zenimax vs facebook get the popcorn”. Comments here are generally more sophisticatedly, of course, but that’s what it often comes down to, including (at least) my last paragraph there. :) I do enjoy those, too, but serious topics tempt serious comments.

    • Dave L. says:

      The issue that while any reasonably competent and well researched engineer could’ve written a version of code that finally made the Rift really work, it was Carmack who did it. And Carmack’s contract with Zenimax states that any patentable or trademarkable invention related to video games that he created while in their employ is owned by them (which is a pretty standard clause).

      They’re further asserting that Palmer Luckey signed a contract regarding the use of that code.

      Zenimax actually has a really strong case against Oculus, just based on Carmack’s contract and his QuakeCon 2012 keynote.

      • bj says:

        If you go by the Zenimax version of events, sure, but there’s some pretty absurd stuff in there.

        The NDA was violated because trade secrets can only be revealed to employees and Palmer doesn’t have any employees because they’re technically Oculus employees, not his? That’s ridiculous, even by lawyer standards.

      • bill says:

        I guess it will all come down to the content of the agreement between the two companies.

        But.. I don’t completely buy this idea that anything written by someone under contract belongs to the company. Because their contract is with Carmack. The code is Occulus’s. The code doesn’t belong to Carmack (I guess), so he can’t give it to them.

        Otherwise, the best way to steal ownership of an idea would be to set up a company, then let your employees go off and get jobs at other companies and work there. And then suddenly claim ownership of those company’s products.

        Carmack/Lucky must have been aware of the rules around this when they agreed and announced publicly that carmack was going to work there. So I assume that is what the agreement covers.

        • drewski says:

          Zenimax seem to be claiming that Carmack did the key work for Oculus *before* they agreed to actually let him work there officially.

      • particlese says:

        I get the “Zenimax owns the code and innovative ideas Carmack wrote/had while here” thing, but my argument is that the ideas are intuitive given the hardware, which invalidates their claim to the ideas. The code can be re-implemented by others who haven’t seen it (taken from existing open sources, for example), and it will no longer be Zenimax’s. The only catch I can think of is maybe they can take out a software algorithm patent if not too much time has passed since Carmack did his work there. I know about that sort of thing in a general sense, but I don’t know how law handles the details of the timing. I also don’t like the software patent thing, but that’s an entire 55-gallon drum of worms and boogers I’d rather not look at if I don’t have to. I suppose it will come up in the course of events, though.

        Thanks for reminding me about the keynote! I’ll watch that again this evening to refresh my perspective.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      The way I understand it, the suit is based around Carmack’s code that he wrote while employed by Zenimax. It’s certainly not a patent issue because there are multiple VR solutions in development at the moment.

      • particlese says:

        That is a good point — Zenimax hasn’t even mentioned the word “patent” yet, as far as I can remember. Sony, filed a patent in the US that’s suspiciously similar to the Oculus design, although there’s a “2006″ date near the top and some call-outs to other patents that makes me wonder how unique Oculus’ work was:
        https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4aiI1HQThWCeTZlbEMyLUNmaTg/edit
        It might be significantly different in that they call for gamma correction (I’m not sure if Oculus does), and the “background” section calls for headphones, even though they’re not in the overview diagram. The USPTO site isn’t working well enough for me at the moment to see if the patent was granted (or maybe I’m searching poorly).

        But anyway, yeah, no “patent” stuff from Zenimax yet, I think. Whew!

    • waltC says:

      I see the central problem as the agreement Luckey signed with Zenimax back in ’012, a full year + before Carmack resigned from Zenimax. That’s what Luckey will have to explain–if they weren’t using anything from Zenimax then there’d have been no reason for Luckey to have signed such an agreement in the first place. (Were the KS donators ever made aware of Luckey’s involvement with ZeniMax?) This story has many currents swirling beneath the surface.

      It would appear that the move to Facebook was a tactical one made by Carmack & friends to escape the clutches of Zenimax–they figured that if FB bought them out that Zenimax would be too intimidated to make any noise about it all, but all Zenimax sees of course is a fatter pay day. Armchair analysis is that Oculus & Carmack offered Zenimax a payday which Zenimax deemed too small to accept, and so at that point the strategy became “How do we shake Zenimax lose?”–to which the answer was: “We get FaceBook to buy us out and let Zenimax wrangle with FB.” And here we are…there’s no way that Zuckerberg went into this blind; he knew what was coming and became a part of the process himself, taking all of FaceBook with him. Sure looks that way.

      • particlese says:

        Woah, yup, I had no idea about that NDA, but I’ve just read a couple articles from the beginning of this month about it. HMMMM! It will be interesting to hear what work is claimed to be covered by that. I should have expected such an agreement given how closely they were working with Carmack, really…

        As far as Kickstarter-based info goes, my Gmail account finds nothing about “Zenimax” anywhere, except for the mention of some dude who was on-stage at Pax with Chris Roberts. Probably in part because the NDA was signed way back in May 2012, and the Kickstarter started the following August. Would’ve been nice to know going in, but I don’t feel gypped or entitled to the info since it wouldn’t have changed my excitement much, in all honesty.

        At any rate, thanks for cluing me in!

  19. Rindan says:

    The only thing sad about this affair is that they can’t hurt each other worse. Facebook and Zenimax deserve each other. Sadly, I imagine Zenimax won’t lose more than they have to on the lawsuit, and it is doubtful they can take a big enough of a bite for Facebook to even notice.

  20. fish99 says:

    They sure know how to trash their public image – first Notch, now Carmack/Oculus. Why not just sue some puppies?

  21. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    This is Zenimax’s Kobiyashi Maru.

  22. Beelzebud says:

    The lesson here: Be careful who you sell out to.

    Given who now owns Oculus, I doubt this is the last time we’ll see a sell-out move come back to bite them.

  23. surethingbud says:

    Zenimax knew FB was purchasing so they started making claims. They just want to hit a big hip pocket. AKA they are scum.

    • lobsterboy says:

      Zenimax has been pursuing this since soon after the kickstarter. They may be scum but it doesn’t have to do with facebook.

      • FhnuZoag says:

        Yeah, another theory might be that Oculus knew that Zenimax was going to come knocking, so they sold to Facebook.

  24. racccoon says:

    WE GOT MONEY TO BURN!!

  25. mandrill says:

    The only people who will win here are the lawyers.

  26. The Petulant Platypus says:

    Zenimax have a rather strong case: http://www.scribd.com/doc/225487008/ZeniMax-Media-and-id-Software-v-Oculus-VR-and-Palmer-Luckey

    Either way it’s going to be bad for the Oculus and for PC gamers.

    • Rapzid says:

      I’ve read through quite a bit of that. They do have some strong claims in there. One thing that struck me though is that they make no distinction between “ZeniMax” and “Carmack”. When they say Luckey asked “ZeniMax” for this and “ZeniMax” spent time doing such and such they often mean Carmack. They let that slip in one of the email snippets.

  27. Shodex says:

    This is why we can’t have fun things.

  28. cpy says:

    Aaaaand i was hoping to get my occulus rift consumer version some day, but as it seems, it’s all ruined now.

  29. bp_968 says:

    I’m pretty sure this is a case of “omg they got bought for X-billions of dollars, me want!” and so they so to get their piece of the pie. They don’t want to make VR goggles or stop them from being made, they just want to use the US legal system for what (apparently) it was designed for: getting lawyers rich and leeching chunks of money off of others. I love this country! ;)

  30. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Like many folks I have an order in for a Devkit 2 which is due to ship in August. I am wondering now if it would be prudent to cancel it. Anyone with a legal background able to say if the orders would be honoured in the event of an Oculus loss?

    • drinniol says:

      The chance of this getting an injunction before August is pretty much 0%. Even after it’s pretty much 0%. And even then the likely damages awarded would be far, far less than TWO BEEEEELLION DOLLARS.

    • drewski says:

      I wouldn’t worry. Zenimax have almost no chance of getting an injunction that would stop Oculus from shipping Rifts. They’ll either settle or chase a payday in court – they’re not asking for the Rift to be withdrawn from sale, they’re asking for adequate compensation for their technology. In fact, the more the Rift sells before they finish their legal action, the better their case for a bigger payout.

  31. DizzyCriminal says:

    I would say at face value Zenimax have a case. Carmack was employed at id, while working on the Occulus. When it comes to most contacts any IP you create is owned by your employer, meaning any code and development Carmack created for Occulus is actually owned by Zenimax. That’s how it “usually” works with these contracts, to settle disputes like these pretty quick.

    I’m not a lawyer though, that’s just how I understand these things.

    • bill says:

      What if carmack had a contract with occulus stating that all the code belonged to them?
      What if carmack set up his own company, with himself as an employee, and made a contract that everything he worked on belonged to Carmack Ltd? Would that mean he now owns iD and Occulus?

      • FhnuZoag says:

        The first contract made tends to have precedence in such cases, with the signing of the second contract causing the (legally actionable) breach of the first.

      • drewski says:

        Basically Carmack (or anybody) can’t enter a contract to give someone access to a right they’ve already assigned to someone else.

        Only Zenimax could release Carmack from the “we own your work” clause of his employment contract.

  32. Nokus says:

    Zenimax are wrong… they should be filing in Eastern Texas not Northern :P

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Seeing as this has literally nothing to do with patents…

      • Nokus says:

        Yeah, I realised that a while later. But couldn’t be arsed to correct myself ;)

        Tbh, when I see the words “lawsuit” and “Texas” you would naturally assume that would be the case.

  33. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    I think Zenimax may well have a strong case actually, the more I read into the details.

    In which case they’re well within their rights to sue Oculus. It’s unfortunate; things like this always are, but it’s the reality of how the process works I’m afraid.

    I can see a settlement happening.

    • drewski says:

      Yeah, the timeline presented in the suit and the comments Carmack made around what he was doing with the Rift tech to improve it really don’t look good for Oculus.

      Obviously that’s just one side of the argument.

  34. Wyrm says:

    ..and just like that Zenimax overtake EA as most hated company. Not getting any more of my cash!

  35. JToTheDog says:

    “Apparently Oculus and ZeniMax spent 2012 and 2013 discussing how Oculus would compensate ZeniMax for the modified VR tech, but then Oculus found financial backing and talks with ZeniMax ceased.”

    I’m no business guru or anything but that just sounds weird. Again, I don’t know the story or have all the parts, but with any company with more than two employees and customers that aren’t your relatives, I don’t think the business model of “pay me back when you can” exists.

    But even if that is the case, why didn’t they just copyright the patent to a trademark with legal-stuff… to protect the tech?

  36. Shodex says:

    What an angry man you are.

  37. Shodex says:

    What an angry man you are.

  38. Phendron says:

    So much E-Rage. :/

  39. xao says:

    Heh, he called me a “mental incapable”. That may be the most adorably inept insult I’ve ever encountered.