Oculus Claims Carmack Left Id After Being Barred From VR Work

by Mike Futter on May 05, 2014 at 03:16 AM

Oculus VR has provided Game Informer with a more detailed statement related to Zenimax’s claims of intellectual property theft. Last week, the Bethesda Softworks parent alleged that Oculus is using unlicensed technology in its virtual reality work.

The claim stems from allegations that Id co-founder and former Zenimax employee John Carmack took technology with him upon his departure. “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 said in a statement provided last week.

At the time, Oculus called the claims “ridiculous and absurd,” claiming that it was the $2 billion Facebook acquisition that led Zenimax to “come out of the woodwork.” Today, a more extensive statement is a bullet point list refuting the allegations.

We are disappointed but not surprised by Zenimax’s actions and we will prove that all of its claims are false. In the meantime, we would like to clarify a few key points:

  • There is not a line of Zenimax code or any of its technology in any Oculus products. 
  • John Carmack did not take any intellectual property from Zenimax.
  • Zenimax has misstated the purposes and language of the Zenimax non-disclosure agreement that Palmer Luckey signed. 
  • A key reason that John permanently left Zenimax in August of 2013 was that Zenimax prevented John from working on VR, and stopped investing in VR games across the company.
  • Zenimax canceled VR support for Doom 3 BFG when Oculus refused Zenimax’s demands for a non-dilutable equity stake in Oculus.  
  • Zenimax did not pursue claims against Oculus for IP or technology, Zenimax has never contributed any IP or technology to Oculus, and only after the Facebook deal was announced has Zenimax now made these claims through its lawyers.
  • Despite the fact that the full source code for the Oculus SDK is available online (, Zenimax has never identified any ‘stolen’ code or technology.

Facebook and Oculus have been cleared by the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice to finalize the purchase. 


Our Take
It seems that the crux of this dispute is whether John Carmack’s work on virtual reality was executed as part of his role as a Zenimax employee. Should this go to court, I’d expect that Zenimax will attempt to show by way of contractual agreement, internal emails, or other directive that Carmack was working on virtual reality as part of his job duties. 

Based on Oculus’ statement above, it seems that work was taking place at Zenimax in an official capacity before it was stopped. This case will be an informative intersection of intellectual property and employment law, and I’m very curious to see how it plays out.