Clash of the Titans: Zenimax Suing Oculus
The bomb has been dropped. The chips are on the table. Any number of analogies will do here, but the fact of the matter is, Zenimax is suing Oculus, and by extension, Facebook, over “misappropriation of trade secrets and infringing copyright and trademarks.” Previously, Zenimax alleged that John Carmack, now the CTO at Oculus, had given proprietary tech and code during 2012 and '13, and that in the wake of being unable to reach an agreement on equal ownership in Oculus, were now pursuing further action. Today's suit seems to be a result of that action, and you can read the entire press release below.
“May 21, 2014 (Rockville, MD) -- 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.
All efforts by ZeniMax to resolve this matter amicably have been unsuccessful. Oculus has recently issued a public statement remarkably claiming that "ZeniMax has never contributed IP or technology to Oculus." Meanwhile, Luckey has held himself out to the public as the visionary developer of virtual reality technology, when in fact the key technology Luckey used to establish Oculus was developed by ZeniMax.
"Intellectual property forms the foundation of our business," said Robert Altman, Chairman & CEO of ZeniMax. "We cannot ignore the unlawful exploitation of intellectual property that we develop and own, nor will we allow misappropriation and infringement to go unaddressed."
"ZeniMax and id Software take their intellectual property rights seriously," said P. Anthony Sammi, a Partner of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP which represents ZeniMax and id in this matter. "We now look to the federal courts and will pursue all appropriate measures available under the law to rectify defendants' egregious conduct," he added.”
Personally, I find it rather curious that Zenimax waited until the deal with Facebook closed before alleging that Carmack had stolen such tech and secrets from his former publisher, especially with it being nearly two years since the Oculus Rift Kickstarterfinished, and they've done countless tech shows since then. Alternatively, one could argue that Oculus knew that a lawsuit was coming, so they chose to associate themselves with a rather beefy team of lawyers. Both of these claims are wild speculation on my part, and we shall have to see what exactly comes out of
In Oculus hiring news, they've been steadily acquiring incredibly talented developers and programmers, the first of which being Kenneth Scott, formerly of 343 Industries, developers of Halo 4 and beyond. Though no one has said much about the first-party titles available for the Oculus upon launch, Scott has been hired to lead their in-house development team, in addition to being the Art Director as well.
Another recent hire has been one from the all-encompassing Google, the man being Adrian Wong. Previously working on the Google Glass as a prototyper, logistics manager, and other research and development, he is now working on the Rift by “Building the Metaverse” as an engineer. What this would entail, it's not entirely clear, though there are reports that Oculus plans on building an MMO that can support up to 1 billion people.
I have reached out to Oculus for a comment on the release status of Oculus and whether or not this might be affected by the lawsuit, and this story will be updated, should we receive a response.