ZeniMax files lawsuit against Oculus VR


— 6:00 AM on May 22, 2014

Earlier this month, id Software parent company ZeniMax accused John Carmack of sharing its intellectual property with Oculus VR. Carmack and Oculus both denied ZeniMax's claims, and it looks like the matter will be hashed out in court. ZeniMax has officially filed a lawsuit against Oculus VR and its founder, Palmer Luckey. Here's a snippet from the press release:

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.

The PR is short on details, but there's more information in the 46-page suit (PDF) posted by The Verge. According to the timeline in that document, Carmack began working on virtual reality in 2011, but he didn't begin communicating with Luckey until the following year. ZeniMax says that after Carmack received the initial prototype from Luckey, he and other employees "transformed the Rift by adding physical hardware components and developing specialized software for its operation."

Here's a picture of the early prototype in id's offices:

The suit is littered with references to Rift enhancements allegedly borne from ZeniMax's VR research. It claims that "throughout 2012, Oculus and Luckey lacked the necessary expertise and technical know-how to create a viable virtual reality headset." Without ZeniMax's contributions, the company adds, "there would not have been a viable Rift product."

Oculus has maintained that ZeniMax "never contributed any IP or technology to Oculus." The VR firm told The Verge that it will vigorously defend that claim, and that the lawsuit "has no merit whatsoever."

   
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