ZeniMax and id Software file lawsuit against Oculus VR for misappropriating trade secrets

Emanuel Maiberg

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Earlier this month, ZeniMax, owner of id Software and John Carmack's former employer, sent a formal notice to Oculus claiming that technology that its virtual reality headset relies on was developed by John Carmack while he was still employed by ZeniMax. ZeniMax claimed that only with its help, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey “was able to transform his garage-based pipe dream into a working reality," and it wanted compensation. Today, the company officially filed suit.

According to ZeniMax's press release, the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas accuses Oculus VR 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.”

According to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by Polygon , Carmack and other ZeniMax employees “literally transformed” Luckey's “crude prototype” in 2012, shortly after Carmack began corresponding with Luckey. “ZeniMax's efforts represented an enormous technical advance in the development of virtual reality entertainment,” according to the lawsuit.

The claim continues: “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.”

ZeniMax says the suit follows its efforts to resolve the situation amicably. “Intellectual property forms the foundation of our business,” Chairman and CEO of ZeniMax Robert Altman said. “We cannot ignore the unlawful exploitation of intellectual property that we develop and own, nor will we allow misappropriation and infringement to go unaddressed.”

It's unlikely that this dispute will end amicably any time soon. When ZeniMax first made its claim earlier this month , Oculus rejected it categorically. “We are disappointed but not surprised by ZeniMax's actions and we will prove that all of its claims are false,” it said at the time , and went on to explain point by point that Carmack did not take any intellectual property from Zenimax, that ZeniMax misstated the language of the non-disclosure agreement Luckey signed and allegedly violated, etc.

At the time of writing Oculus VR has yet to respond to the news of the lawsuit.

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