ZeniMax: Carmack stole our intellectual property for Oculus


— 12:03 PM on May 1, 2014

John Carmack's recent career change has raised quite a few eyebrows—and, as the Wall Street Journal reported this morning, it's also landed Carmack and his new employer in hot water.

The Journal says ZeniMax, id Software's parent company, has alleged in two separate letters that Carmack "improperly took ZeniMax's intellectual property with him to Oculus." ZeniMax credits the misappropriated intellectual property for "[propelling] Oculus from a shoestring startup to technology's big leagues in less than two years." Word is that ZeniMax is seeking financial compensation.

The letters come on the heels of Oculus VR's acquisition by Facebook, a deal valued at $2 billion. The dispute itself, however, seems to date back to 2012, when Carmack collaborated with Oculus VR co-founder Palmer Luckey on his first virtual-reality headset prototype. "People familiar with the discussions" claim ZeniMax sought financial compensation as early as August 2012. ZeniMax was reportedly offered a "small equity stake" in the startup, but in the end, no deal was made.

Speaking to the latest allegations, Oculus VR told the Journal, "It's unfortunate, but when there's this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims." (Oculus is presumably referring to the Facebook deal.)

Even discounting Carmack's collaboration with Luckey two years ago, there's clearly been some overlap between his work at id Software and Oculus. Earlier this month, Carmack tweeted, "When you are in a hurry, and you know you wrote the exact needed code (well!) at a previous job, reimplementation grates." Carmack wasn't available to comment on today's story, the Journal says.

Update 12:50 PM: Carmack has tweeted the following statement: "No work I have ever done has been patented. Zenimax owns the code that I wrote, but they don't own VR."

After co-founding the company and serving as its tech guru for more than 22 years, John Carmack left id Software last November to concentrate on his work at Oculus. Carmack had been named Chief Technology Officer of the virtual-reality firm three months prior, and he had split his time between Oculus and id until his departure from the latter.

   
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