Palmer Luckey testifies at ZeniMax-Oculus trial

Oculus VR co-founder Palmer Luckey took the stand yesterday to testify at the trial between Facebook and ZeniMax Media, which claims that much of the technology behind the Oculus Rift headset was actually developed by John Carmack while he was CTO of id Software—a ZeniMax company—and is thus owned by ZeniMax. According to this in-depth report by Polygon, the exchange between Luckey and ZeniMax lawyers was occasionally contentious, as they attempted to demonstrate that Luckey, a college drop-out, could not have designed the Rift himself. 

Oculus lawyers countered by pointing out that Luckey's interest in engineering went back to his early teens, and that he had built multiple prototype VR headsets long before being contacted by Carmack. Luckey's ability to create what would ultimately become the Oculus Rift, without needing Carmack's assistance, is core to Oculus VR's defense: ZeniMax's claim hinges largely on the extent of Carmack's participation, particularly prior to late 2013, when he was still with id. 

ZeniMax produced emails between Luckey and Carmack meant to show that he "misrepresented" awareness of the NDA he signed prior to working with ZeniMax, which prohibited Oculus from using or sharing its proprietary trade secrets, as well as who from ZeniMax had attended closed-door demonstrations of the early Rift hardware. There was also disagreement over whether the VR testbed and Doom 3 BFG Edition demo used in the development of the Rift were covered by the NDA: The ZeniMax attorney indicated that they were, while the defense stated that the software had "entered public knowledge" by that point, and were thus no longer subject to the NDA. 

No big bombshells, then: Instead, just the groundwork for what will almost certainly be a tangle of technicalities and legal interpretations that's unlikely to end with a knockout for either side. The trial, which began last week, is expected to run for roughly three weeks

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.