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Zenimax Sues Oculus Over VR Tech 97

An anonymous reader writes "We had hints at this when Zenimax accused John Carmack of stealing 'proprietary technology and know-how,' but now it's official: Zenimax is suing Oculus VR over its virtual reality headset technology. 'According to a statement released by Zenimax, the lawsuit was filed over what it perceives to be the defendants' illegal exploitation of intellectual property, including "trade secrets, copyrighted computer code, and technical know-how relating to virtual reality technology" that was developed by Zenimax. Zenimax is also seeking to take Oculus and Luckey to task for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and unfair competition. Zenimax continues to claim that it provided IP to Oculus under a legal agreement that it would be owned exclusively by ZeniMax and could not be "used, disclosed, or transferred to third parties without Zenimax's approval."'"
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Zenimax Sues Oculus Over VR Tech

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  • Prior Art (Score:4, Funny)

    by thedonger ( 1317951 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @04:30PM (#47059835)
    The universe has been in 3-D for like 30 billion years.
  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @04:35PM (#47059897) Homepage Journal

    they didn't want to do it.

    and I fail to see what they provided. maybe they think that carmack(and therefore them) invented 3d->2d projection calculations(oculus tech works just fine without anything that could have been zenimax property).

    furthermore, zenimax(through carmack, or through contracts) promised me doom 3 with my oculus rift and never delivered(technically apparently now by not giving devtime for it). fuck 'em.

    • Zenimax owns Carmack's work while he was on their clock.
      All that shit about "trade secrets, copyrighted computer code, and technical know-how relating to virtual reality technology" is likely just a puffed up way of saying (true or not) Carmack worked on OR shit on Zenimax's dime, thus Zenimax owns that work.

      • Re:fuck zenimax (Score:5, Informative)

        by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @04:42PM (#47059985) Homepage Journal

        and that is already another lawsuit I think? I think they already sued for Carmack going to work for them(and carmack taking trade secrets with him, namely his brain, the way they worded things would have made for Carmack impossible to move to another employer if Zenimax had their way. so double fuck 'em.).

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Its only a lawsuit now that there's big bucks in it. No sue happy when it was a crowd funded project, couldn't get anything out of em. Facebook steps in and now billions are on the table. Magical law suit fairies appear.

          Its a troll hoping for a payoff.

      • by Teancum ( 67324 )

        Zenimax owns Carmack's work while he was on their clock..

        That gets real tricky with a guy who was actually working at three different businesses at the same time and spent time in three (or more... I don't know John Carmack personally) physical offices. It also depends on the contract that Mr. Carmack actually signed with Zenimax, or rather the contract that Zenimax inherited when they took over ID Software. ID seemed fine with the idea that Mr. Carmack could work at both places at the same time and had previously agreed upon his work with Armadillo Aerospace w

      • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

        And Carmack himself openly admitted he worked on Oculus Rift while working for Zenimax. That was one of the big arguments Oculus guys used to advertise themselves early on.

        They are boned. The only thing they can do is try to get a decent deal, but Zenimax has them by the balls and they know it.

  • The older stories I read talked about it being over John Carmack, and though that was BS.

    If the last line is correct, I think they have every right to sue.
  • by Malkhuth ( 1334499 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @04:37PM (#47059927)
    Looks like Zenimax is just jealous of Oculus' buyout.
    • And now that Fuckbook owns them, two things will happen. They will just settle with Zenimax, or bury them.

      Does anyone know if/when there will be an injunction to prevent the Oculus from being developed further or sold as dev kits?

    • They've been trying to work with Oculus for a year or so on settling the issue. Oculus made some offers, and Zeni felt they weren't enough. Now they are suing over it.
  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @04:41PM (#47059973)

    Looks like ZeniMax's argument is that since Carmack used ZeniMax equipment, that all work done by him is owned by ZeniMax.

    20. ZeniMax was established in 1999 as the parent company for the acquisition of Bethesda Softworks,

    23. In his employment agreement with ZeniMax, Carmack agreed to disclose toZeniMax inventions relating to the companyâ(TM)s current or anticipated research and developmentthat Carmack created during the term of his employment, and further agreed that all suchinventions would be the exclusive property of ZeniMax. Carmack also agreed that ZeniMaxwould also be the author and owner of any copyrightable works that he prepared within the scopeof his employment

    24. For years, dating back to the 1990s, ZeniMax and its affiliates had conducted research into virtual reality technology and headsets

    They might win this on a technicality aka, literalism.

    • I might buy it if he took anything with him other than his brain. I greatly suspect that Oculus and Carmack will argue that he left ZeniMax with nothing except his know-how, and they can't own that, no matter how he came by it. He's just a clever guy. He re-invented everything in a different way when he got to Oculus, and that's that. Zenimax can use anything that Carmack left behind, but this is all new.

      • Unless he transmitted any information to Oculus before formally resigning from Zenimax - such as things like, you know, texting, emailing, talking, illicitly copying data to his gray matter, entangling photons, collapsing wave functions by observing, etc...
        • by Teancum ( 67324 )

          One of the projects that Mr. Carmack was working on at ID Software was to incorporate Oculus Rift technology into ID games. That very well could require some coding that would involve ID "intellectual property" that could in turn be rolled into at least the Oculus development kit API.

          As to if Zenimax owns the API of Oculus, I thought that had some other legal precedence that sort of frowned upon this kind of behavior?

    • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:12PM (#47060349)

      They wouldn't allow him to work on it which is one of the reasons he left so he didn't do anything on zenimax's equipment.

      They are essentially claiming ownership of things in his head that he didn't work on, just thought about. That's what line 23 is talking about ownership of things he thought about.

      This is about Zenimax rent seeking on Facebook. They think they can extract a pound of flesh now that Occulus has deep pockets backing it.

      • That's what I hoping for too. We definitely need to get Carmack's word and get all the facts.

        • That's what I hoping for too. We definitely need to get Carmack's word and get all the facts.

          You can bet Mr. Carmack's lawyer has already told him not to say one mumbling word in public about either suit. We won't be getting his word for years to come, unless Facebook seriously unloads with both barrels. Odds are they'll pay Zenimax something with a gag order and we'll never hear any of the facts. And Zenimax is perfectly aware of the odds. So far as can be told publicly, Facebook isn't like NewEgg. They don't fight much. So the typical corporate shakedown tactic will succeed and that'll be t

        • No need to hope, ask yourself with a straight face what "anticipated research" is. They've buried it in a legitimate complaint that you can sue for (and likely have no chance of prevailing on the legitimate portion) but I guarantee their whole case turns on the idea that they can sue for "anticipated research".

          They put in all the other easily disprovable stuff so the case isn't dismissed by summary judgement so they can try to argue that what ever was in Carmack's head was "anticipated research" that even t

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They might win this on a technicality aka, literalism.

      Nah, I work in a technology heavy, invention heavy, IP industry and it's not an allowable position to claim the rights to someones knowledge in the future. All they can restrict is the dissemination of proprietary information (like documents). Anything that can be construed as a "non-compete" clause is basically unenforceable.

      If he took code with him, they have a case. If he took ideas only, then they only have a case if their lawyers are better than his.

    • Being that VR existed long before 1999, I doubt they can claim ownership of VR as an abstract concept. Now if they can prove source code and/or designs were rehashed by Carmack, now that's another story from what I can tell.

    • Zenimax also claims there are signed agreements or contracts or something in place that give them rights to work related to what he did with them. I don't know specifics, but the fact that OR has made previous offers in the last year (offers that Zeni felt were inadequate), it kind of feels like there must be something solid here. Otherwise, OR would have said screw off a year ago.
      • by Teancum ( 67324 )

        The offers were about a joint project between OR and Zenimax, which John Carmack was going to be the lead developer for that project. That Zenimax decided it wasn't worth their effort should be perhaps a bit more understandable other than trying to figure out what role John Carmack was going to have without any sort of joint project on the horizon. Zenimax was insisting Mr. Carmack work full-time for them and he told them to go to the proverbial hell and simply left Zenimax altogether.

        That was the point w

  • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @04:41PM (#47059975)
    Between this, horse armor, claiming all rights to the use of the word "scrolls," the extended lawsuit with Interplay over Fallout Online: Zenimax is a terrible company.

    People should not buy their stuff, but as always seems to happen in the games industry - if people like your games, you can get away with anything. Blizzard, Activision, Sony, Microsoft... remember this []? That picture is the reason I gave up on fighting against DRM. I still don't buy games that require activation, but I realize now that I'm always going to be in the minority.
    • It's not really fair to the many good people working at Bethesda Softworks not to buy their games and thereby possibly put their livelyhood at risk, because some lawyers at their parent company happen to be pricks. It's not like they are responsible for this or have any say in it.

      • It's perfectly fair. Those good people working at Bethesda Softworks should take this opportunity now to leave and form their own company, before they have yet another idea that will instantly be owned by Zenimax. Then Zenimax can keep what it wants most - all the IP for the games it bought - just lose all the people that came with it.

  • by stewsters ( 1406737 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @04:49PM (#47060057)
    Perhaps Carmack should challenge them to a trial by combat, on Quake using the Occulus Rift. I bet Notch would assist.
  • Technical know-how belongs to the person who's brain holds it. It can not be transferred.
    Unless John Carmack copied the source code of Zenimax, there is no copyright issue. If you want to stop someone writing code that does the same thing as your code, you file an absurdly stupid patent.
    They may have something on trade secrets, depends what they considered secret.

    • I feel like this is something the lawyers for Oculus VR and Zenimax would have looked over before Carmack started developing for the Oculus Rift. I would also think the lawyers for Facebook would have paid closed attention to this when looking into buying Oculus Rift.
      • They did. Luckey has put in writing that Zenimax owns the IP behind the tech, and that it can't be shared or used with third parties without Zenimax's involvement. Both sides have spent the last year doing the offer/counter-offer thing to work out terms, but that all crashed when Facebook got involved. I imagine Facebook basically took the stance of "we can afford to fight it if we have to, and since we're bigger than Zenimax, we'll have the advantage." To them, the worst case scenario is probably nothi
    • Unfortunately, Luckey has put in writing to Zenimax that Zenimax owns the IP used in OR, and that the tech can't be shared or used with third parties without Zenimax's involvement. That agreement is apparently well-documented and in place. They tried to work out an agreement where Zeni was given equity stake in the OR company, but when Facebook bought them, that became impossible. Believe it or not, just because a company sues, doesn't mean they are the bad guy.
      • Unfortunately, Luckey has put in writing to Zenimax that Zenimax owns the IP used in OR, and that the tech can't be shared or used with third parties without Zenimax's involvement.

        You've posted that twice now and I'm calling bullshit. Palmer Luckey created the Oculus Rift completely independently of John Carmack and Zenimax both. He started showing it around, Mr. Carmack got interested and started demoing it, still without working on it himself. It was only after Mr. Luckey managed a successful Kickstarter for the Rift that anybody really gave any credence to the idea in the first place. Mr. Carmack started addressing the software gap by volunteering to make the upcoming Doom 3 r

        • I'm just going off of what Zenimax is claiming. Plus, they seem to be backing up those claims quite a bit. At least enough that people should stop just assuming this is an troll suite and that the big bad company is out to get little old Oculus Rift.

          For example, here's a copy [] of an NDA that Luckey signed two years ago that seems to back up Zenimax's claims a bit. Zenimax also claims that they were investing "tens of millions of dollars" in VR tech before Carmack was even part of the picture. I think t

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:11PM (#47060339)

    Zenimax are the morons who paid an absolute fortune to buy the failing iD software developer. At the time, all but the most moronic Carmack fan-boys knew that iD was in the most dire straits, with Carmack having burnt through an insane amount of money working on the dreadful idtech5 engine and Rage. iD was a joke for its complete inability to produce even a half-decent game design, and Carmack's last engine, the one behind the very mediocre Doom 3 game, had been a total failure (only one external use of the licence- Prey).

    After buying iD, Zenimax allowed Bethesda (their gaming arm) to give Caramck and the other iD head honchos another small fortune to create two massive internal iD teams. To date, the sum total of output from these two teams (now down-sized to a one smaller unified team) has been Rage (the same game iD had spent years on BEFORE being bought out). They didn't even port idtech5 to directX (hence the dreadful problems the current Wolfenstein game is having running on current PCs). Even Doom 4 actually made NEGATIVE progress (so the game is currently less progressed than when iD was bought out). .

    Carmack was seen as part of the 'problem', and Zenimax was clearly happy to have him 'sod off' to Oculus VR while still under contract.

    As Carmack now 'proudly' (?) boasts, his time at Oculus VR, while under contract to Bethesda, gave Oculus VR nothing of value- and Carmack should know.

    Zenimax wants blood, and NOT because of their dishonestly stated events at Oculus VR. No, Zenimax is out for blood over having been 'conned' in the first place with the iD buy-out. Accept, as I said at the top, Zenimax wasn't conned but chose to buy a company every sane and informed person knew was worse than useless. Zenimax should have paid iD for exclusive rights to the gaming IP (Quake, Doom, Wolfenstein, ET multiplayer) and NOTHING ELSE. This way Bethesda could have found reliable third-part software houses to work on new versions of these games using the Unreal engine. iD would have gained a nice lump sum, and Zenimax would have started with a clean slate.

    Zenimax now attacks Oculus VR as a proxy, and this is the worst strategy imaginable. Caramack is open and honest, and very intelligent to boot. He will have given Zenimax's lawyers less than zero to work with. And this means Facebook will be extremely unlikely to want to settle (and Zenimax wants too large a pay-off anyway, to cover their iD loses). Indeed, I imagine Facebook is chomping at the bit to give Zenimax a very sound 'spanking' indeed.

    The courts in the USA consider such issues using contract law first, second and third. Zenimax has made it clear that the contracts that do exist refer to theoreticals that never actually came into play. And worse, Zenimax, of its own choosing, decided NOT to seek monetary remuneration of any significant amount for Carmack's work for Oculus VR, while under contract. The old "we'll do the work for you, and THEN we'll decide what to charge you" is an unlawful form of business practice in every first-world nation.

    Zenimax will have to show ACTUAL, registered IP of its ownership in current Oculus VR business, and that is impossible, because it doesn't exist. So Zenimax will fall back on the nebulous, non-legal argument that because "Carmack is a genius", and "Facebook bought Oculus VR for 2 billion after Carmack's involvement", Carmack's 'input' (whatever that may have been) was 'instrumental' and therefore since Carmack was Zenimax's wage-slave for at least some of this period, Zenimax is entitled to a giant slice of the pie- innit.

    The great thing about the USA is that you can find a lawyer willing to take your money to argue ANY nonsense in court, and keep doing so while the fees keep flowing. Sometimes a judge takes pity, and advises the suckers paying for the creep that they have literally ZERO chance of winning early on- but usually everyone involved with the system simply sits back and sucks on the teat of corporate idiocy.

    The shaming part? Zenimax could use its money inst

    • Caramack is open and honest, and very intelligent to boot. He will have given Zenimax's lawyers less than zero to work with. And this means Facebook will be extremely unlikely to want to settle (and Zenimax wants too large a pay-off anyway, to cover their iD loses).

      The one doesn't necessarily follow from the other.

      I'm quite certain Mr. Carmack is open, honest, and very intelligent, and he's been around the corporate block enough times to wear the naivete off of even as stunning an intellect as his (plus he's married and you can bet his wife is paying attention to business even if he isn't*). All of that may be true, but Facebook may still settle.

      So far Facebook has shown precious little interest in court fights. I expect Facebook will offer a considerably lower sum

    • Where would COD be if it didn't have a yearly release?

      I'm not hardcore gamer. (I loved Halo, for example), but when I was a kid we had these outlined sketch drawings with numbers in them. Whatever the number was, that was the color you filled in. Don't think, just find the right crayon and try to stay within the lines.
      That was a better game than recent CODs.

    • by guises ( 2423402 )

      They didn't even port idtech5 to directX (hence the dreadful problems the current Wolfenstein game is having running on current PCs).

      I realize that this wasn't the point of your rant, but this bit is off. "Didn't even" are not words that you use to describe migrating a graphics engine from OpenGL to DirectX. That's an enormous project. It also isn't necessary - there's nothing wrong with OpenGL. idtech5 may not be so great, but this is not the reason.

  • I really, really hope that Oculus gets basically shut down as a company. That would mean the most damage ever done to Facebook would be by Facebook itself, which would be hilarious and not remotely surprising. After they privacy violations and what an unbearable douchebag their CEO is, they deserve it.
    • I don't. Even if you don't like the Rift now that Facebook has bought Oculus, the only reason Sony's VR headset is being released is to jump on the hype train. The Rift is necessary to provide the competition that is needed to drive the VR market. At the very least until another well funded company announces an upcoming headset. In any case, provided that Facebook stays hands-off on the Rift, it looks like a very compelling product.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll