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Zenimax Claims Oculus/Palmer Luckey Misappropriated Its Intellectual Property

by Mike Futter on May 01, 2014 at 05:35 AM

Update: In light of Zenimax's legal action, we've updated the wording of this news post to better reflect Zenimax's claims against Oculus.

Update: John Carmack has commented on the claims made by Zenimax."No work I have ever done has been patented," Carmack said via Twitter. "Zenimax owns the code that I wrote, but they don't own VR."

Original Story:

Zenimax, the parent company of publisher Bethesda Softworks and developer Id Software, is pursuing legal action against former employee John Carmack. The company alleges that on his exit from Id to Oculus, where he now serves as chief technology officer, that Carmack infringed upon and misappropriated its intellectual property.

Zenimax tells Game Informer that it sent a notice to Oculus to affirm its legal rights. The company alleges that Carmack took software developed while he was an employee of Id Software to Oculus without permission or license.

“ZeniMax's intellectual property rights arise by reason of extensive VR research and development works done over a number of years by John Carmack while a ZeniMax employee, and others,” the company says in a statement. “ZeniMax provided necessary VR technology and other valuable assistance to Palmer Luckey and other Oculus employees in 2012 and 2013 to make the Oculus Rift a viable VR product, superior to other VR market offerings.”

Furthermore, Zenimax says that prior to the Facebook purchase of Oculus worth $2 billion, company founder Palmer Luckey acknowledged in writing Zenimax’s legal ownership of the intellectual property in question.

“Oculus has used and exploited ZeniMax’s technology and intellectual property without authorization, compensation or credit to ZeniMax,” the statement reads. “ZeniMax and Oculus previously attempted to reach an agreement whereby ZeniMax would be compensated for its intellectual property through equity ownership in Oculus but were unable to reach a satisfactory resolution.”

When reached for comment, Oculus provided a prepared statement. “It's unfortunate, but when there's this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims,” a representative told us. “We intend to vigorously defend Oculus and its investors to the fullest extent."

[Source: Wall Street Journal]


Our Take
The full details of the specific technology are not yet known, but these accusations are serious. Carmack published white papers on his VR work while at Id Software. However, the content of what is being applied at Oculus may be more substantive. Luckey’s acknowledgement of intellectual property ownership and past dealings will all be part of a lawsuit, which is where this looks to be heading.