ZeniMax Sues Oculus

ZeniMax Sues Oculus

The folks who publish Doom are suing the new employer of the man who helped create it. Following a number of verbal barbs swapped between both companies over the past few weeks, the game publisher ZeniMax announced today that it has filed suit against VR company Oculus for "illegally misappropriating ZeniMax trade secrets relating to virtual reality technology, and infringing ZeniMax copyrights and trademarks."

ZeniMax — which publishes games like The Elder Scrolls and Wolfenstein — says that Doom co-creator John Carmack took technology and information when he left ZeniMax subsidiary id Software for Oculus last year. ZeniMax also wrote in a press release today that its "intellectual property has provided the fundamental technology driving the Oculus Rift since its inception".

Oculus, the company that makes that much-hyped Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, was purchased by Facebook earlier this year for $US2 billion.

Here's the full press release sent out by ZeniMax today (emphasis ours):

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.


    just stick to making games and get rid of this American culture of sue-countersue

      Why? It's a cash cow that polarizes the media and gives you free publicity, these companies wont stop until the penalties are massively increased for filing dummy lawsuits and judges become stricter when it comes to them.

    Funny how this only happened after massive financial backing...

      When you think about what's happening, it's also funny that companies own your head. If that IP is stored in Carmack's head (i.e. he didn't take anything physical or digital with him) then they're effectively stating he can't use any of the ideas stored in his own head and they own the right to them.

      Take it one step further, and in a weird twist, companies now own the matter that sits between your ears and what you're allowed to do with it.

        Well, they can already own your mouth with Non-Disclosure agreements. I'm surprised there is 'copyright computer code' though. I'm not even sure how that would work if someone can just type it out from their head alone. Wouldn't it be like copyrighting a certain layout of stone bricks? Like everyone can do it, but this layout alone is theirs?

        I say this having a small amount of experience in programming. I am actually curious how this is supposed to work.

        Last edited 22/05/14 12:50 pm

        It's not quite that bad, but yes, there has always been clauses in industry contracts that allows them part ownership of ideas and products done on company time.

        No one would ever do it, but if you wrote a short story while on the clock at a service station, then legally the service station would own half of that story.

        By the looks of the press release there is some actual physical technology or property being debated and it will be up to Zeni to prove that and for Carmark to disprove.

        My guess is that if Oculus looks like it will lose, then they will have to pay royalties for the Rift or use the facebook money to settle

    I hope this dosent delay it further >_>

    So they're still claiming to own VR and the experience of their ex employees. Will be interested to see how this plays out in court.

      It's not uncommon for any intellectual property developed while a salaried employee to belong to your employer more or less automatically, if the IP is vaguely relevant to your job. This is even the case if you did the work on your own time. (The rules are different if you're paid by the hour.)

      The rules are to prevent employees from hiving off with their own company using tech developed with their old company (and possibly even suing their old company for patent violation), so they're not *entirely* insane.

      There are also work-for-hire provisions you need to keep an eye on in some contracts.

      Basically, it's quite possible that Zenimax does in fact have a leg to stand on, especially when Carmack was probably one of the reasons they bought id in the first place.

        Given the current environment following recent revelations of employment condition fixing and anti hiring practices between some big companies (Apple, Google, etc) - I don't see any non-compete clauses being upheld ahead of the ability for an employee to find themselves gainful work. If you gain experience with VR working with one company, then get a job working on VR at another company, the first one can't stop you.
        IP is a very different thing - they can't take any code or tech, but being unable to use your knowledge and experience makes you unemployable anywhere else.

        If they bought id for Carmack, and Carmack leaves, that just makes them idiots that didn't do enough to keep a valued employee.

        I laugh every time the term 'know how' is used - if a company had rights to the experience and abilities of an employee, we'd all have to work at one place for life, or starve.
        As far as rules against employees leaving and starting a competing company with the tech developed, yeah, that's fair. But if that was altered to the new company making something from scratch, well, it'd be like Respawn being sued for making an FPS game since the 'know how' was developed from working on Call of Duty.

        Edit: spacing

        Last edited 22/05/14 10:41 am

          Non-compete clauses are different. My current position has exactly what @gregorvorbarra mentions, as did my previous two programming jobs: stuff you create is the company's property if it's related to the stuff you're paid to work on for them or related to their interests, regardless of whether you did it after hours or not.

          I was working on a game in my spare time before starting at this company. Previous places I worked did business software so it was safe enough, but current one does some games work. Far enough removed that they'd be complete dicks if they were to try and claim it and I don't think they would, but I stopped contributing to that game anyway as a result, just to be safe.

          It goes both ways too. If while moonlighting on my own software I were to use open source with an infectious licence like GPL, and then later if I were to re-implement something in my commercial code (very likely - programmers tend to solve problems the same way repeatedly if it's a good way to do it) then it's possible that that commercial code could also be required to be open sourced. There's cases where this has actually happened out there. It's also possible for you to unwittingly infringe on software patents and thus expose your employer.

          If Zenimax are seriously going after Carmack here then they must feel they really have a case, they're not just after a quick buck.

          Last edited 22/05/14 5:21 pm

    Is anyone really wondering how this is going to end? Facebook has the larger revenue pool, they'll win. I thought it was common knowledge that the person with the bigger chequebook always wins in court -,-

      It isn't really about winning for ZeniMax. They huff until Facebook pays them in an out of court settlement. What Facebook should do is say, game on and protect the experience of it's employees

    They not have bothered a few months ago, but now they know oculus is all cashed up now...

    Apparently ZeniMax have been trying to settle out of court since 2012 but keep getting ignored. So it has nothing to do with the recent FB aquisition.

    Wait... How the fuck could they be violating a trademark? Unless Zenimax are claiming they've trademarked VR or another similarly generic term?

    Would be very curious to know WHAT trademark they're claiming.

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