Here's ZeniMax's Specific Beef (Well, Beefs) With Oculus Rift

Here's ZeniMax's Specific Beef (Well, Beefs) With Oculus Rift

Oculus, makers of the Oculus Rift VR headset, and ZeniMax, owners of studios like id and Bethesda, are heading to court. It is going to get messy.

ZeniMax is pissed, and in its case has presented a long, long list of grievances it has with Oculus Rift, boss Palmer Luckey and former id boss, now Oculus employee John Carmack.

Here are some of the highlights from ZeniMax's filing, which do their best to paint ZeniMax's tech as the Rift's saviour, Luckey as a bumbling rookie and Carmack as a shady benefactor. Note that perhaps the most interesting point is ZeniMax's claim that Oculus wanted them to make exclusive games for the Oculus Rift, something that's now obviously never going to happen.

Throughout 2012, Oculus and Luckey lacked the necessary expertise and technical know-how to create a viable virtual reality headset. In the months following E3,Oculus and Luckey sought that expertise and know-how from ZeniMax. Without it, there would not have been a viable Rift product

In April 2012, Carmack discovered through an Internet forum that Luckey had assembled a primitive headset that Luckey called the "Rift." Up to that point, Luckey — then acollege-age student — had been trying to develop an improved 3D-display device. But,not withstanding multiple prototypes and discussions with fellow 3D and virtual reality enthusiasts, Luckey never developed a viable display, and lacked the technical expertise to create one.

At ZeniMax's offices, Carmack evaluated, analysed, and began modifying the Rift prototype using ZeniMax's VR Technology. At that time, the Rift was a crude prototype. Little more than a display panel, it lacked a head mount, virtual reality-specific software,integrated motion sensors, and other critical features and basic capabilities needed to create a viable product.

Carmack made breakthrough modifications to the Rift prototype based upon years of prior research at ZeniMax.

As a result of their years of research, and months of hard work modifying the prototype Rift to incorporate ZeniMax's VR Technology, Carmack and others at ZeniMax transformed the Rift from $US500-worth of optics into a powerful, immersive virtual reality experience. ZeniMax's modified Rift featured the "Holy Grail" combination of specially-tailored hardware and innovative software. Both are necessary to create an optimal user experience.

Throughout June 2012, Luckey repeatedly emailed ZeniMax seeking and receiving access to ZeniMax's accumulated proprietary information, trade secrets, and know-how.

On July 17, 2012, ZeniMax improved the optics calibration for its DOOM 3: BFG Edition video game, and in doing so discovered that the Rift's optical calibration was off-center. ZeniMax suggested solutions to correct the Rift's optics calibration. Luckey later admitted that the calibration was "a lot more off than I would have thought."

On July 26, 2012, Luckey again asked for ZeniMax's help with the Kickstarter video, specifically asking Carmack to provide a clip "talking about the Rift/VR in general/whatever else you think would be a great thing to have." Luckey further acknowledged:"Your reputation has really helped the credibility of this project, and having that credibility in thevideo would make a big difference for alot [sic] of people." Carmack declined Luckey's requestto appear in the Kickstarter video.

At about that same time, Carmack advised Luckey: "It is very important that you NOT use anything that could be construed as Zenimax property in the promotion of your product. Showing my R&D testbed with the Rage media would be bad, for instance."

In blatant disregard of ZeniMax's rights, Defendants used ZeniMax's intellectual property in the Kickstarter video. The video features multiple clips showing DOOM 3: BFG Edition, displayed on the modified Rift headset. The video also used DOOM 3: BFG Edition to promote the modified Rift by displaying, without authorization, ZeniMax's logo for DOOM 3: BFG Edition as the first Oculus-Rift ready game. Further, despite the lack of anycommercial agreement with ZeniMax, Defendants promised that certain backers of theKickstarter campaign would receive copies of ZeniMax's game DOOM 3: BFG Edition with support for the modified Rift.

The Kickstarter video also identifies "ultra-low latency head tracking" as "the magic that sets the Rift apart." According to the video, "[o]ne of the biggest problems with virtual reality up to this point is latency. The benefit of the Rift is that it is designed to be reallyreally low latency." The low latency head tracking highlighted in the Kickstarter video refers toZeniMax's VR Technology

During the summer of 2012, Defendants also used ZeniMax's VR Technology to demonstrate the modified Rift to potential investors in Oculus. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Oculus's current Chief Executive Officer, Brendan Iribe, met Luckey in a Long Beach,California hotel room, where Iribe was "transported to a three-dimensional view of a room from 'Rage,' a sci-fi shooting game. RAGE is a video game developed and owned by ZeniMax. Shortly thereafter, Iribe and at least one of his associates became founding members, investors, and/or officers of Oculus.

At QuakeCon, Oculus, lacking sufficient virtual reality expertise, could not get the modified Rift to function properly without ZeniMax's technical assistance.

In its proposal, Oculus demanded that ZeniMax grant Oculus a worldwide,exclusive licence to programming code that had been provided by ZeniMax pursuant to the Non-Disclosure Agreement. Oculus also demanded that ZeniMax create additional intellectual property for Oculus's sole use.

On October 19, 2012, ZeniMax made a counter-proposal to Oculus, agreeing to provide on-going support, including much of the support requested by Oculus, as well as a licence to ZeniMax's VR Technology that had been disclosed pursuant to the Non-Disclosure Agreement. In return, ZeniMax asserted its rights to a larger share of equity in Oculus to reflectZeniMax's past and continuing contributions.

On November 13, 2012, Oculus responded to this counterproposal, asserting that ZeniMax's proposal "is so far out of the ballpark, we're left wondering if there's any hope."

Rather than compensate ZeniMax for the use of its intellectual property, Defendants then sought to obtain additional virtual reality know-how by recruiting ZeniMax employees, including Carmack, to join Oculus.

It just goes on. And on. And on. As will, no doubt, this lawsuit. While these are excerpts, you should really read the whole suit (it's at the bottom) if you want to be totally up-to-speed.


    Oh crap....if Carmack indeed physically worked on the Rift while on site at the ZeniMax offices, this could be bad.
    They seem to have legitimate grounds to pursue this.

    Hopefully Oculus's defence is just as solid.

      i dont think that has any merit. at best that would have been grounds to file him a warning for not working on Zenimax projects...

        Well that's just it.
        We can judge the merit of the claim or counter claim, but at the end of the day it's up to each side to prove and disprove in a court.

        Just looking at ZeniMax's claim as above, they know where to put their chips down to craft a legitimate complaint on paper. These are big companies with big lawyers on the payroll remember, they don't just make up stuff if they seriously don't think they have the grounds to pursue it. Even looking for a settlement, you have to convince the other side they could lose.

    I will say what I said before, they could have done it earlier if it is an issue and not after the $2b acquisition by Facebook. This is clearly an attempt at cash grab regardless of what their history are. Zenimax could have completely killed Oculus and take the IP for themselves in 2013 but they waited until Facebook bought it. If the lawyer could present the case saying that Zenimax has been helping in the shadow for Oculus to grow into a profitable company and lawsuit Oculus for profit gain, that will win the case.

    There was no reason for Zenimax to help Oculus in the first place. Carmack made a statement before saying that he wanted to pursue VR in the company but Zenimax declined causing Carmack to leave the company for Oculus. If Zenimax really cared about VR, there is no way that they will help Oculus to grow to what it is.

      Based on the account given by ZeniMax, the reason they didn't pursue legal action before the Facebook acquisition was because they were continuously attempting to negotiate business terms for their property. Only once Oculus went to Facebook and ZeniMax was faced with the prospect of its technology being acquired illegitimately by a large, unlicensed competitor did they choose to take legal action.

      This is what people constantly lambast companies for NOT doing - being too quick to jump to legal action and lawsuits instead of attempting negotiations. ZeniMax has nominally done what people want here by engaging in long and protracted negotiations to try to resolve matters before using legal action as a last resort.

    Why wait 18 months to file the suit if this was all true? Especially when a tech startup would be easier to intimidate with lawyers than a company backed by the amount of money facebook has?

      I think that's the whole idea. Now they known Oculus has the money to pay whatever lawsuit zenimax throws at them.

      I gave a possible reason above but forgot to tag you as well, sorry about that.

      From reading over this stuff, I'd say if ZeniMax has evidence to support their claims (and many of the claims are worded to suggest they do), this is pretty damning for Oculus and Luckey.

      The answer is just as you may be thinking. It's easier to intimidate a tech start up, but it's more financially beneficial to go after a rich target.

      Dick move? Damn right. Rare? Hell no.

    This is actually rather damning. The thing hasn't even been released yet so I'm interested to see how this plays out.

      Damning accusations, but so far they haven't presented any actual tangible evidence of said thing actually happening.

      As such there's also counter to each of their claims from the Oculus side

      Even the warping technology is old. The only thing new was doing the warp in a pixel shader.

      The barrel distortion code is a common plugin for made paint programs since the 80s if I am not mistaken.

      Further, the Rift WAS an HMD, the prototype Carmack got was version 6. Previous versions sported motion tracking, and a headmount, which is counter to ZeniMax's claims.

      The motion tracker used by Carmack was a 3rd party device not owned by ZeniMax, and the only thing Carmack did was add integration code for DOOM 3 BFG to the Tracker to the HMD.

      Meanwhile the tracker used by the Rift is completely custom designed by Oculus VR from scratch.

      The code Carmack wrote while working for ZeniMax is no where to be found in the Rift SDK. The Rift SDK is publicly available for anyone to look at, and yet ZeniMax has failed to point out a SINGLE LINE of code that they wish to claim Oculus VR infringed on.

      Keep in mind that this is ZeniMax's version of the whole shebackle. Don't know if they are using hyperbole or whatever else to aid their cause. Then again we don't know if it is true either.

      I just hope either way it doesn't stop/slow the Oculus Rift's development.

    Here is an interesting bit of info (at lest i find it interesting) did you know that John Carmack was not the the only guy from Id software to move onto Oculus?

    "The entire tech team at id software has quit and moved to Occulus - they all left this past February all together on the same day to protest the managements treatment of people."

    Under the heading “There is a lot that needs fixing at id Software.”

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