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Zenimax Accuses John Carmack of Stealing VR Tech 148

John Carmack made waves last year when he left id Software, owned by Zenimax, to join Oculus VR in order to help create its virtual reality headset. Now Zenimax has sent documents to Oculus's legal department claiming Carmack "stole" technology from them when he left. They said, "The proprietary technology and know-how Mr. Carmack developed when he was a ZeniMax employee, and used by Oculus, are owned by ZeniMax. Well before the Facebook transaction was announced, Mr. Luckey acknowledged in writing ZeniMax's legal ownership of this intellectual property. It was further agreed that Mr. Luckey would not disclose this technology to third persons without approval." Carmack says, "No work I have ever done has been patented. Zenimax owns the code that I wrote, but they don't own VR." Oculus was also dismissive: "It's unfortunate, but when there's this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims."
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Zenimax Accuses John Carmack of Stealing VR Tech

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @04:37PM (#46893411)
    That's what people don't understand and the reason why patents suck. Ideas are NOT original. Implementations are.
  • by Zephyn ( 415698 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @04:42PM (#46893471)

    It's not just about people, it's also about the before buyout/after buyout difference in the quality of the products produced by the 'wholly owned subsidiary'.

    People who enjoyed games by Westwood, Bioware, or Maxis before they were bought out by EA understand this.

  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @04:54PM (#46893617)

    What we're dealing with here is a trade secret dispute. Zenimax alleges that Carmack was privy to inside knowledge of Zenimax's work on VR tech while he worked there, and now he's allegedly run off with that knowledge and given it to Oculus VR.

    Think of it like the formula for Coca Cola - it's not patented, never has been, but it's protected by trade secrets law. If someone works for Coca Cola and discovers/absconds with the formula, and then sells it to, e.g., Pepsi, then that person violates trade secrets laws by doing so. But if Pepsi independently discovers or reverse engineers Coke to discover the formula on their own, without relying on Coca Cola's inside knowledge, then more power to them.

  • WRONG (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @05:28PM (#46894005)

    Zenimax agreed with Carmack working with Oculus, while still under his original contract with Zenimax. Zenimax accepted that Carmack was coding for Oculus, and actually had a signed agreement with Oculus acknowledging that fact, and claiming ultimate ownership of that code.

    Carmack and Oculus are more than happy to ensure that ZERO code owned by Zenimax goes into any future product- by all accounts the code was junk anyway, and every current significant promotion of Oculus Rift is done with other third party software, including code from Valve. Oculus Rift is literally STONE SOUP, which is why every informed person was amazed that the dummies at Facebook thought there was anything worth buying in the first place.

    Zenimax chose NOT to have a payment contract with Oculus when they allowed Carmack to work there. This is 100% the fault of Zenimax. Now, after the fact, Zenimax wants to unilaterally set a payment figure, and base this figure NOT on the work Carmack did, but on the fact Facebook paid 2 billion to buy Oculus VR. This logic will crash and burn in court.

    The real-deal is that Zenimax wants pay-back for their disastrous decision to buy iD in the first place. Zenimax is well over 100 million dollars down on that deal, and they'd like their money back "thank you very much". But everyone knew the hopeless state of iD before Zenimax wasted their money buying them. Carmack had ran the company into the ground, from a licensed engine perspective, with only one genuine OUTSIDE customer for the Doom 3 Engine, and no outside customers likely for the dreadful Rage engine. iD was desperate to sell, having sank their fortune into the horrible Rage game. Everyone knew iD couldn't design new games, and everyone knew that iD's main success, licensed game engines, was long dead as well. The only sane reason to buy iD was if Zenimax was convinced that it could exploit iD's IP, namely Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein- IP that even iD itself had failed to usefully exploit for years.

    Every decision made by Zenimax after the purchase of iD got worse. They paid to buy the rights to 'Prey', the ONLY outside (non-iD financed) title that used the Doom 3 engine, and lost a small fortune there as well, when the Prey 2 project collapsed.

  • Re:then again... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @05:43PM (#46894163) Journal

    No, it isn't. From the ZeniMax statement in the article:

    The proprietary technology and know-how Mr. Carmack developed when he was a ZeniMax employee, and used by Oculus, are owned by ZeniMax.

    So they are claiming that he also stole the "know-how".

    If he actually took some ZeniMax programs, that is one thing. And if true, I can see how ZeniMax might have some claims.

    But the term "know-how" tends to be common in unenforceable non-compete agreements, and are generally shunned in courts. People learn stuff, making the people more valuable. That is just how life works, and that is not usually a valid claim. When the people move on they can still keep secrets, but they cannot be made to unlearn that which they have learned.

  • What if... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @06:08PM (#46894451)

    What if Zenimax isn't operating alone here; what if they have a silent partner, someone with an incentive to delay Occulus; say, for example, Sony...

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @06:17PM (#46894563)

    This has happened before... []

    This is why there is no CCR, and why Fogerty gave up music entirely out of disgust after this lawsuit. We missed decades of great music from a genius that we'll never get back. Remember this the next time a record company tells you that piracy is theft.

  • by HannethCom ( 585323 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @06:22PM (#46894605)
    I have never seen Pepsi claim their blind taste tests are fair. This makes their saying that more people pick Pepsi in their blind taste test perfectly legal. Though I still think it is deceptive.

    I took the Pepsi blind taste test. I would even say that the cold, freshly opened Pepsi tasted slightly better than the warm Coke that had been opened over a hour ago. I ended up choosing the Pepsi because I all of a sudden got the craving for the Juicy Fruit that they give you only if you pick the Pepsi.

    How do I know the Coke had been open for over 1 hour and the Pepsi was freshly opened? I asked the guy. He said it was policy not to cool the Coke and make sure it was open at least 1 hour. Though they would sometimes cheat and only have them open for 30 minutes when things got really busy. The Pepsi had to be cooled and they were not allowed to use it if it had been open more than 5 minutes.

    As for the Juicy Fruit, that was common knowledge here at that time. If you choose Pepsi, you got it, if you choose Coke, you didn't.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner