ZeniMax Sues Oculus VR Over Stolen Trade Secrets

Andy Chalk

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ZeniMax Sues Oculus VR Over Stolen Trade Secrets


ZeniMax Media and Id Software have filed a lawsuit against Oculus VR and founder Palmer Luckey for "illegally misappropriating" its virtual reality trade secrets.

ZeniMax Media announced today that it has begun legal action against Oculus Rift maker Oculus VR, claiming illegal misappropriation of its virtual reality trade secrets, copyright and trademark infringement, breach of contract, unjust enrichment and unfair competition. The two companies appeared headed for trouble denied the claim [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/134168-John-Carmack-Accused-of-Stealing-ZeniMax-Technology-For-Oculus] outright, stating among other things, "There is not a line of Zenimax code or any of its technology in any Oculus products."

ZeniMax claimed that while Luckey has "held himself out to the public as the visionary developer of virtual reality technology," it is actually responsible for developing the technology behind the Oculus VR headset. It also said that attempts to reach an amicable resolution to the dispute had been unsuccessful, which ultimately forced it to file suit.

"Intellectual property forms the foundation of our business," ZeniMax Chairman and CEO Robert Altman said in a statement. "We cannot ignore the unlawful exploitation of intellectual property that we develop and own, nor will we allow misappropriation and infringement to go unaddressed."

The lawsuit says ZeniMax has been researching VR technology as far back as the 1990s, and had actually created prototype VR software for early Elder Scrolls games. It also references statements made by John Carmack, formerly of Id Software, about work he'd done on the Rift prototype while he was still an employee of ZeniMax, as well as email exchanges between him and Luckey, and various other key figures at ZeniMax and Oculus, regarding the headset. And it turns out that trouble between the two companies has actually been brewing since the summer of 2012, when Oculus VR used footage from Doom 3: BFG Edition in its Kickstarter promo video, despite ZeniMax refusing to grant it permission to do so.

Interestingly, the lawsuit has been filed jointly by ZeniMax Media and Id Software, and while John Carmack featured prominently in initial reports of the dispute, he is not specifically named as a defendant.

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NuclearKangaroo

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boy zenimax is in full copyright troll mode now

now they are arguing they had developed VR technology for year... though they never used it in any way shape or form, but since they did develop it they say OR mustve copied... yeah right


the Doom 3 footage debacle, yeah it seems they have some solid grounds there but thats the only thing

i wish copyright law wasnt so nippletwistingly retarded, that way OR wouldnt have been basically forced to sell themselves to FB
 

Covarr

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The evidence ZeniMax claims to have is pretty damning. Only one problem: I firmly believe they are lying. I don't know what their lawyers are trying to pull here, but I rather suspect they'll get their asses handed to them.

P.S. Thanks

P.P.S. On the exceedingly slim chance they're telling the truth, and they do have a legal case against Oculus VR, I do hope they win. But I still don't believe them, not even a little bit.
 

Signa

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This just sounds like someone lost their best friend to a new kid in town and now they are throwing a temper-tantrum. If I was Zenimax, I would have been thrilled to have John Carmack on my payroll. Now that he's not, they've probably lost the only real creative genius they have.
 

Pyrian

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I don't get this. It's a patent troll...without a patent?

A trade secret is not a patent and does not enjoy exclusivity protection.

What specific copyright violations are they claiming? O.R. says there's no copied code.

And last... Trademark? ...That must be the demo reel thing?
 

kanetsb

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So... How many days till all the Zenimax and it's IPs Facebook pages go down?
 

Baldr

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Covarr said:
The evidence ZeniMax claims to have is pretty damning. Only one problem: I firmly believe they are lying. I don't know what their lawyers are trying to pull here, but I rather suspect they'll get their asses handed to them.

P.S. Thanks

P.P.S. On the exceedingly slim chance they're telling the truth, and they do have a legal case against Oculus VR, I do hope they win. But I still don't believe them, not even a little bit.
Here the whole thing in a nutshell: ZeniMax and Carmack had a contract. We don't know what was in that contract. We know for a fact that Carmack was working on OR software while working at ZeniMax. ZeniMax at the least has a legitimate argument, I don't think they are trolling like a ton of other companies. It depends on how the court systems interprets that contract and details of the code. Most like there is going to be a settlement and the public will never know the real truth.
 

Daverson

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Other things Zenimax considers Trade Secrets:
-The Pope's Religious views
-Where Bears shit
-The existence of the word "Scrolls"
-The colour blue
-The number 6
-Pretty much everything else

Kumagawa Misogi said:
Anything to do with software you create while you work for us belongs to us'.
Translation: We own you.

Didn't you Yanks have some war over slavery or something?
 

Citizen Graves

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Fuck you, ZeniMax/Bethesda. You've ruined the release of Wolfenstein: TNO in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and now you're trying to lawyer your way through Oculus Rift VR tech. Thing is that I just don't trust you.

Seriously, fuck off. No money from me to you any more. Die, shitty company. Die.
 

aelreth

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If the trade secret that was "leaked" isn't disclosed in court, then they should't be having the trial.

I hope that Oculus starts by asking for discovery of which trade secrets & technology could have been released.
 

Vivi22

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Kumagawa Misogi said:
Standard employment contract in computer software industry.

'Anything to do with software you create while you work for us belongs to us'.

If this goes to court Zenimax will win and probably be found to own everything to do with Oculus Rift.

That's why Facebook will just give them lots of money to go away.
Yeah, no. There's no way that John Carmack signed a contract saying every bit of software he worked on while id was owned by Zenimax belonged to them. Things he developed in his office for id projects? Sure. Stuff he did on his own time to help out a completely separate company? No way in hell. A man who's that prolific a coder and software engineer does not sign a contract like that, and those sorts of contracts are absolutely not standard in the industry. Hell, I'm not even sure they'd be enforceable since what you make in your own home on your own time is not their business. If they're not paying you to make it, they don't own it.
 

Weaver

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Kumagawa Misogi said:
Standard employment contract in computer software industry.

'Anything to do with software you create while you work for us belongs to us'.

If this goes to court Zenimax will win and probably be found to own everything to do with Oculus Rift.

That's why Facebook will just give them lots of money to go away.
It's going to be hard because Facebook is in California and will want to do court in California because "non compete" clauses are not legal there.

Vivi22 said:
and those sorts of contracts are absolutely not standard in the industry.
I've been a software dev for a number of years now, those contracts are very standard. I usually get them amended when I start a new job, however, to exclude things outside of the industry the company is working in as I like to develop games as a hobby and don't want whatever company I work at to own that.
 

Adraeus

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Pyrian said:
I don't get this. It's a patent troll...without a patent?

A trade secret is not a patent and does not enjoy exclusivity protection.

What specific copyright violations are they claiming? O.R. says there's no copied code.

And last... Trademark? ...That must be the demo reel thing?
Read my posts in this thread [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/6.849215-Is-ZeniMax-Being-a-Patentless-Troll-in-Its-Claim-Against-Oculus].

Vivi22 said:
A man who's that prolific a coder and software engineer does not sign a contract like that.
Apples and oranges. Being a great engineer has nothing to do with being smart about contracts.

Vivi22 said:
...and those sorts of contracts are absolutely not standard in the industry.
They sure are. Assignment of Inventions language appears in 15% of Executive Employment Agreements, 40% of Independent Contractor Agreements, and, as a stand-alone clause, 85% of Employee Invention Assignment Agreements. [http://www.contractstandards.com/document-checklists/inventions-assignment-agreement-analysis/assignment-of-inventions]

Vivi22 said:
Hell, I'm not even sure they'd be enforceable since what you make in your own home on your own time is not their business. If they're not paying you to make it, they don't own it.
They are enforceable.
 

ThunderCavalier

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Oh, hell. They're going forward with this?

Contrary to everyone's opinions, I don't want Zenimax/Bethesda to lose completely on this because, well, the Bethesda part still made a bunch of games that I happen to like a lot (TES, the new Fallouts, etc.) and, in general, lawsuits like this are really just getting in the way of what could be otherwise development of some interesting technology. VR has far more utilization than just "immersive video games" and I'd love that, at the very least, the technology gets finished before all the companies start jumping on it and trying to patent it for themselves.

As it stands, it's still in an experimental state, and now it's being bogged down by this stupid lawsuit. :|
 

Hairless Mammoth

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This ones iffy now that Zenimax has the cojones to take this to court. If Carmack or whoever did sign a contract stating his work belonged to Zenimax and Oculus is now using code he developed while under Zenimax's employment, then it's up to the laws of the jurisdiction and the court's interpretation of the contract and the law to decide who's right. Though, I doubt Oculus would hire Carmack and let him start working without quitting id first, if he had that kind of legal baggage on his shoulders. I've had to sign similar contracts just to fix cars that hadn't even made it to the dealerships, yet.

I still say Zenimax is butthurt over loosing Carmack and their lackluster recent releases. They might have a good case here, but I think they're still trying to scare Oculus into a settlement and, if they do go to court, rely on dumb non-tech savvy jurors[footnote]Protip: To get out of jury duty(and its sub-par reimbursement for you time), study as much as you can about the case before you are interviewed by the lawyers. They usually look for the least knowledgeable, easiest to convince people to help them win a case. (Of course, that might be one reason why the US Justice system is screwed up. No one cares, and the people who could make well educated decisions got out of there before even the first hearing.[/footnote] to get an easy win.
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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Everyone knows how good Carmack is, he wouldn't need to steal tech or code when he could invent it himself. I think Zenimax wants a close look at O.R's operating code so they can get their VR tech moving forward.
 

Strazdas

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May 28, 2011
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"Intellectual property forms the foundation of our business,"
Founding your business on something that isnt a legal concept - always the best way to make sure you win in court!


Adraeus said:
They are enforceable.
then your legal system has failed.
They shouldnt be. What i coded on my own time should not belong to the company, only what i did while im working for them.