ZeniMax Media sues Oculus VR and its founder

  • Published in Gaming featured

ZeniMax Media Inc., the people who helped publish the Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein and Doom franchises, have entered a legal battle with Oculus VR, which was recently purchased by Facebook.

The Maryland video-games publisher is suing the Oculus VR and its founder Palmer Luckey for “illegally misappropriating ZeniMax trade secrets relating to virtual reality technology, and infringing on Zenimax copyrights and trademarks.” Oculus VR also kept its stance, asserting that ZeniMax’s lawsuit has “no merit whatsoever.”

This lawsuit’s story is directly linked with Oculus’ inception, and Luckey’s collaboration with ZeniMax. According to ZeniMax, the then video-game enthusiast Palmer Luckey worked together with John Carmack, technical director for ZeniMax’s Texas based subsidiary, id Software on creating a working VR prototype. Oculus never obtained a license to use ZeniMax’s property, which included copyrighted code, trade secret information, and technical knowledge, nor did it have any right to sell or transfer it to any third party, the complaint states.

Oculus Rift - Crystal Cove

Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, was recently acquired by Facebook earlier this year for $2 billion.

Here’s ZeniMax’s full press-release, since this is the beginning of a lengthy drawn out legal battle.

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,"

Zenimax also sent over its court documents, where it states that John Carmack became interested in the Rift pre-Kickstarter, and alongside other Zenimax employees provided technical info to Palmer Luckey before the prototype was successfully crowd funded. ZeniMax also states that the Rift was modified prior to the release of Doom 3: BFT edition, which, according to the publisher “represented an enormous technical advance in the development of virtual reality entertainment”

So, to recap. According to ZeniMax, the collaboration with Oculus in 2012 and 2013 extended to improving the original “crude” prototype that supposedly lacked a head mount, developing virtual reality-specific software, adding motion sensors as well as plenty other features. 

The Maryland Games publisher also takes credit for the “positive press” the virtual reality device gained when it was showcased at E3 in Los Angeles 2012, which it arranged and promoted. In ZeniMax’s view, without said collaboration “there would not have been a viable Rift product.”

This is how the legal battle begins. Both companies are prepared to settle matters in court, or perchance outside of court in the last minute. However, from the look of things, they’re both prepared for legal battle, and with every passing moment, it becomes obvious nobody wins.

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