About a month ago, ZeniMax, owner of publishers and developers like Bethesda Softworks and Id Software, expressed their intention to pursue legal action against Oculus VR and its founder, Palmer Luckey. Their belief is that former ZeniMax employee and Id Software co-founder John Carmack has provided Luckey and Oculus VR with ZeniMax proprietary software in order to make the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset a viable product. Carmack and Luckey denied the allegations.
Now, however, ZeniMax has officially filed court documents and is suing Oculus VR and Palmer Luckey. The thing is: if ZeniMax’s claims against Oculus VR are founded, then Luckey, Carmack and the Oculus Rift project are in a lot of trouble. ZeniMax’s accusations and claims (if true) are damning.
“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,” the company said in a press release shortly after filing the court documents. The statement continues in full below:
“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.”
The actual court documents, all 55 pages of them, are embedded below. Kotaku has sifted through them and pulled the most interesting and most damning allegations. You will undoubtedly find many more in the entire document below.
One thing is certain: this is going to get ugly very quickly. Oculus VR has released a brief statement in which they deny the accusations: “”The lawsuit filed by ZeniMax has no merit whatsoever. As we have previously said, ZeniMax did not contribute to any Oculus technology. Oculus will defend these claims vigorously.”
Facebook will no doubt be throwing their weight behind this, so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. Whether or not this litigation will hinder the final release of the Oculus Rift remains to be seen.
Perhaps it’s time to pre-order a developer kit instead?