Doom co-creator and all-around genius John Carmack left the company he helped found last year. Now the people he used to work for say he took their technology with him.
Last year, Carmack left id Software for the virtual reality company Oculus Rift, which was purchased by Facebook earlier this year for $US2 billion. Zenimax, the parent company of id, is now threatening legal action, claiming that Carmack took proprietary technology he developed at id and used it to help "develop and market" the Oculus Rift goggles, which allow you to look around and virtually inhabit a video game world.
There have been no lawsuits filed yet, but both parties have swapped formal letters about the issue. The Wall Street Journal saw documents exchanged between lawyers from Zenimax and Oculus, and the claims are harsh.
"It was only through the concerted efforts of Mr Carmack, using technology developed over many years at, and owned by, ZeniMax, that Mr Luckey was able to transform his garage-based pipe dream into a working reality," Zenimax lawyers wrote to Oculus and Facebook, according to the Journal.
"It's unfortunate, but when there's this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims," Oculus said in a statement to media. "We intend to vigorously defend Oculus and its investors to the fullest extent."
And here's the full statement Zenimax sent out to media including Engadget:
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. 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."
Carmack also chimed in this afternoon:
No work I have ever done has been patented. Zenimax owns the code that I wrote, but they don't own VR.
— John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) May 1, 2014
Seems like this battle is just getting started. We'll keep you updated as we hear more.