Some time ago, John Carmack left id Software, the company he had founded and that ZeniMax had subsequently recently acquired, for Oculus Rift. The announcement came as a shock and surprise, but on the whole, it had seemed like the parting of ways between Carmack and ZeniMax had been an amicable one.
Well, it doesn’t feel so peachy now- it actually feels pretty damn hostile. You see, ZeniMax is accusing Carmack of having stolen tech when he left for Oculus, and then of having delivered it to Oculus Rift. What kind of tech, you ask? Some VR tech that ZeniMax was apparently developing internally, it seems.
“It was only through the concerted efforts of Mr. Carmack, using technology developed over many years at, and owned by, ZeniMax, that Oculus founder Mr. Luckey was able to transform his garage-based pipe dream into a working reality,” reads a statement from ZeniMax Media sent to Oculus VR and reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Oculus VR was quick to issue a response: “It’s unfortunate, but when there’s this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims. We intend to vigorously defend Oculus and its investors to the fullest extent.”
Technology site Engadget contacted ZeniMax Media to try to confirm the veracity of this news. ZeniMax was quick to confirm that they had, in fact, made this allegation.
“ZeniMax confirms it recently sent formal notice of its legal rights to Oculus concerning its ownership of key technology used by Oculus to develop and market the Oculus Rift,” they said. “ZeniMax’s technology may not be licensed, transferred or sold without ZeniMax Media’s approval. 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. 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.
“The proprietary technology and know-how Mr. Carmack developed when he was a ZeniMax employee, and used by Oculus, are owned by ZeniMax. Well before the Facebook transaction was announced, Mr. Luckey acknowledged in writing ZeniMax’s legal ownership of this intellectual property. It was further agreed that Mr. Luckey would not disclose this technology to third persons without approval. Oculus has used and exploited ZeniMax’s technology and intellectual property without authorization, compensation or credit to ZeniMax. 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. ZeniMax believes it is necessary to address these matters now and will take the necessary action to protect its interests.”
It sounds messy, and while the fact that ZeniMax is only now making noise about this automatically makes it seem suspicious, if they indeed have documentation that proves that Carmack ‘stole’ the tech, then him and Oculus may be in trouble.
In any case, we will keep you posted on all the drama.