The Zenimax And Oculus VR Lawsuit Is Moving Ahead

It’s an interesting turn of events in the life of Oculus VR. Earlier this week The New York Times confirmed that the lawsuit accusing Oculus VR of stealing trade secrets and code for the development of the headset would not be thrown out.

So what the heck is going on here, exactly? More after the jump.

The lawsuit was instigated by ZeniMax Media, a game publisher that sued Oculus earlier last year in the aftermath of the Facebook deal. According to ZeniMax, Doom honcho John Carmack – at that point a ZeniMax employee – had provided help to Oculus founder Palmer Luckey during the VR platform’s early days. Carmack would later go on to join Oculus as the company’s chief technolgy officer.

So ZeniMax is contending the help Carmack gave to Luckey was illegal.

The ruling – which occurred late last month by Jorge A. Solis, a judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas – denied a request by defendants Luckey and Oculus to dismiss the lawsuit. It’s worth keeping in mind that this doesn’t suggest a slam-dunk win for ZeniMax. The judge writes in his ruling that ZeniMax merely had to show enough fact to make a plausible claim. In other words, it isn’t the court’s job β€œat this juncture to decide whether defendants would prevail on the merits of the case.”

Oculus, of course, denies this. Last year, the company issued a statement calling out the lawsuit as having no merit “whatsoever.”

“As we have previously said, ZeniMax did not contribute to any Oculus technology,” it reads. “Oculus will defend these claims vigorously.”

A jury trial is scheduled for the 1st of August, 2016.

45 Comments

  1. Xzi says:

    I don’t think Zenimax is going to win this, but I’m in favor of any lawsuit against Facebook.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      The trial is in North Texas…Facebook is fucked.

    • Clavus says:

      As if Zenimax is anything to cheer for. It’s a bullshit claim and Zeni just went after it since they know there’s money to be had after the FB acquisition. They’re probably aiming for a settlement.

      • Xzi says:

        Well I’m not for Zenimax, just against Facebook.

        • SanguineAngel says:

          I don’t know what they have to say
          It makes no difference anyway
          Whatever it is, I’m against it!
          No matter what it is
          Or who commenced it,
          I’m against it!

      • metric day says:

        Considering they WERE already negotiating with Oculus for a settlement before pulling out of negotiations, obviously they want a settlement. They deserve one too, and Oculus knows it. There will be a nice payment before next summer that’s for sure.

      • kaizer_roll says:

        Unfortunately, patent law more or less requires that one pursue all of these cases or else risk weakening their patents (the argument goes: ‘so why didn’t you pursue this when a similar thing happened previously?’). Trade secrets and patents are not the same thing, and Zenimax may very well have no case, but its just the reality of the law that, as a large company with a legal team and a lot of money, they basically need to pursue this, and only wouldn’t if they feared the fallout would be worse than the possible windfall.

        • zarniwoop says:

          No it doesn’t.

        • ButteringSundays says:

          This is a common fallacy, and one that relates to trademarks, not patents.

        • Clavus says:

          This isn’t even about patents or trademarks. It’s all about whether Carmack wrote any code for Oculus during his time at Zenimax.

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          Dez says:

          Just chiming in agreement with the other responses with regard to US law: Trademark holders must defend against trademark infringement or risk losing their trademarks. Patent holders do not need to defend against patent infringement, and it’s a common practice for holders to wait until an alleged infringer has made money before demanding compensation. And this Zenimax lawsuit has nothing to do with trademarks nor patent infringement.

  2. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    There will be a settlement before August 2016 then, as always.

  3. Pulstar says:

    Calling both sides dogs is an insult to canines everywhere.

  4. Bull0 says:

    Probably missed the boat with this but the new fonts on here are horrendous. The logo’s nice. “What’s that got to do with Oculus?”, you might well ask. Well, not a lot.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      I’m finding it a lot more readable on my iPad – and ‘horrendous’ is hyperbole and a half.

      • Bull0 says:

        I’m not even exaggerating. Borderline illegible. NB the desktop and mobile sites use different fonts.

        • STARFIGHTER says:

          This is how it looks to me:

          link to puu.sh

          Is that not how it looks to you? Because my goodness, it’s quite clear and not even remotely what I would call illegible.

          • Bull0 says:

            Well that looks OK, but on my screen it looks like this (but a lot less smooth; every image editing program i’ve tried automatically smooths it out a lot. Imagine this but much more jagged):
            link to i.imgur.com

        • Aetylus says:

          Borderline illegible? If I was to pick the fonts defining characteristics they would be clearness and ease of reading…

        • SanguineAngel says:

          Got to say I largely agree. Whilst I don’t believe the font to be illegible I find the comments section in particular to be uncomfortable to read on a desktop and my eyes keep slipping off the words for some reason

    • SuicideKing says:

      I quite like it on the desktop…and on my phone too… :/

    • Timbrelaine says:

      I actually like ’em. The new logo/favicon is definitely the highlight though.

  5. geldonyetich says:

    Ironically, regardless of who wins this, the Occulus Rift has been developing slowly enough that it may well be beaten to market by rival products that could end up stealing its thunder with the mainstream consumer.

    At least, so I would derive from my own subjective experiences. I haven’t been in a hurry to shell out big dosh for something described as a “developer kit,” have you?

    • Timbrelaine says:

      Well, yeah. The Vive is coming out this holiday, and the Rift is coming out Q1 next year. Schedules could slip, but Oculus has definitely let its advantage evaporate.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      In what way is this ironic? Ironic would be if it turned out that zenimax had obtained the information about carmack’s help illegally.

      The rampant misuse of irony has to stop! Gah!

    • Replikant says:

      As far as I know, Valve had been working on a VR-HMD for some time before the Rift-kickstarter. Oculus just got the most public attention and created the initial VR hype.
      They can’t cash in on the hype, that’s true, but I don’t think the Vive development was so much faster than the Rift.

  6. Zallgrin says:

    Is nobody going to say ANYTHING about the header picture? Nobody?

    Cause it’s bloody brilliant. Is there a high-res version that I can use as my wallpaper?

    • metric day says:

      Those photoshops were dull even before TIME started promoting them while trying to pretend it wasn’t a hideous cover idea.

      • Frosty Grin says:

        It wasn’t a hideous cover idea. What was hideous was the reaction of the tech press, getting ashamed and offended at how a man in VR goggles actually looks.

        • metric day says:

          I thought it was spectacularly terrible. That beach art… Jesus.

          • Frosty Grin says:

            It’s not the beach art that got the negative reaction. No, it’s how average and uncool he looks. But that’s exactly what makes the cover great – the contrast between the mundane reality and fascinating VR. The pose in particular is genius – he’s humble and so obviously fascinated. The header picture? It merely exploits what’s already there in the original.

          • GWOP says:

            Nope. Sorry. The dramatic dainty jumping pose coupled with the terrible beach art in the background simply makes it hilarious.

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      Solrax says:

      Well I liked it too. Brilliant whoever did it!

  7. csbear says:

    Agree… Perfectly executed and hilarious.

  8. Be_reasonable says:

    Major corporations and tech companies can make you sign a list of agreements that they have first rights over anything that an engineer writes. Unless John Carmack got permission, it’s certainly possible that he came up with innovative intellectual property while under contract, which could create a case here. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong.

  9. Gilmir says:

    Wow… Suddenly the plot of the latest season of “Silicon Valley” looks even more convincing and realistic… Prophetic, even ;)

  10. racccoon says:

    In this law suit & with massive monies depleted, it’ll be “THE BLIND LEADETH THE BLIND” and optometrists will be clapping at some point.

  11. Pockets says:

    It’s nothing new. It’s pretty standard for absolutely everything you do while under an employment contract to belong to your employer. If you’re lucky, they’ll say ‘anything relevant’ rather than ‘anything’, but an IT company can pretty easily say any coding is relevant.

    • Pockets says:

      that was meant to be a reply to Gilmir, but I forgot about the login redirect removing the replyto :(

  12. vlonk says:

    John Carmacks contract is a big unknown here for us casual observers. I would assume he has several cop-outs in his contract to be allowed to share and own his ideas. Since he has his own tech-company (real rocket-science here) it would be ridiculous if his employer would sap all of his ideas.

    Going by his extremely detailed, technical, open and available talks about (for instance his keynotes at QuakeCon) the topic of VR, Zenimax probably has to prove in court what has been additionally reveiled to Palmer Luckey. Going by his Keynotes it is rather Carmack who learned some new things from Luckey not the other way around! I can therefore understand Oculus ridicule for the claim.

    In the end it comes down to judges making calls about what an “employee” said to a “CEO” of another company and this argument then goes towards Zenimax. That is probably why they do not dismiss the claim outright but need more details to get to the truth. The judges will probably not decide it (and the public will never know what really happened, because cases like this will usually be settled with a big pile of money to keep the lid on the details.