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ZeniMax's legal war over Oculus Rift targets Gear VR

Send in the suits!

ZeniMax, the owners of studios including Bethesda and id Software, have sent their lawyers after Samsung over the Gear VR phone cybergoggles. Following their $500 million (partial) legal victory against Rift makers Oculus, where a jury agreed that Oculus folks had broken a non-disclosure agreement with ZeniMax and infringed upon their copyright, ZeniMax are trying to halt the Rift and going after related people and businesses. Seeing as Gear VR was made in collaboration with Oculus -- marketing says it's "Powered by Oculus" -- ZeniMax think Samsung are using trade ZeniMax trade secrets, and so Samsung should pay them damages and royalties.

This latest lawsuit builds on ZeniMax's old arguments, saying that the Rift is built upon work they own. The suit alleges:

"Samsung intended to leverage and commercially exploit ZeniMax's trade secrets for the financial benefit of its mobile phone business and in furthering its sales of the Samsung Gear VR. In furtherance of that plan, and without authorization from ZeniMax, Samsung improperly acquired access to ZeniMax's trade secrets through its relationship with Oculus, Luckey and Carmack, and intended to leverage, commercially exploit, and otherwise use the ZeniMax trade secrets without permission, authorization or compensation to ZeniMax."

ZeniMax say that Samsung surely would've known about their claim to the technology, given all the media coverage of the case, yet continued.

The path to from Rift prototypes to, eventually, the Gear VR does have one strange twist. ZeniMax allege that John Carmack let fired ZeniMax employee Matt Hooper into id Software's offices in 2013 to chat about mobile VR - and potentially look at confidential information. They say:

"After providing Hooper access to the locked premises, Carmack left Hooper unattended, free to examine ZeniMax confidential materials, at which point Hooper went alone into offices where ZeniMax maintained and stored confidential information. Later that night, Hooper emailed his contacts at Oculus disclosing that he and Carmack formulated an "attack plan" for the mobile VR work that they would undertake together at Oculus, and which Oculus would subsequently provide to Samsung. Hooper's presence in ZeniMax's offices was not disclosed by Carmack and was only discovered in a review of security tapes."

By and large, the suit follows ZeniMax's usual story about the Rift's creation:

"In creating the Samsung Gear VR, Carmack and Oculus used the VR code and proprietary techniques that Carmack had developed while employed at ZeniMax, and which were ZeniMax's exclusively owned intellectual property. Carmack confirmed this in later sworn testimony, when he admitted that he merely "reimplemented" the same copyrighted code he had created while an employee of ZeniMax when he created the Oculus VR software used in the Samsung Gear VR, including an SDK designed for Samsung mobile devices (the 'Mobile SDK' and related software."

ZeniMax want Samsung to pay them damages, royalties, legal fees, and so on.

If you want to pore over the full suit, Polygon uploaded a copy over here.

Meanwhile, John Carmack is suing ZeniMax over payments from when ZeniMax bought id Software. And Oculus (and Facebook) are, of course, planning to appeal that big initial ruling. ZeniMax seem to be relying on that as a foundation for future cases, so toppling it could be mighty important.

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Alice O'Connor avatar

Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice has been playing video games since SkiFree and writing about them since 2009, with nine years at RPS. She enjoys immersive sims, roguelikelikes, chunky revolvers, weird little spooky indies, mods, walking simulators, and finding joy in details. Alice lives, swims, and cycles in Scotland.