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Oculus "disappointed, but not surprised" by Zenimax claims

VR headset-maker says id Software canned VR support for Doom 3 BFG when it was denied equity stake in upstart company

The Zenimax-Oculus rift isn't likely to be repaired any time soon. Oculus today provided its first official response to Zenimax's claims that the Rift uses its intellectual property, saying it was "disappointed but not surprised by Zenimax's actions," and denying all of the id Software parent company's claims to Oculus technology.

Zenimax's claims stem from the assistance id Software co-founder John Carmack offered Oculus creator Palmer Luckey early on in the headset's development. Around that time, id Software had announced Doom 3: BFG Edition, saying that the update to the game would make it compatible with the still-in-development Oculus Rift.

"A key reason that John permanently left Zenimax in August of 2013 was that Zenimax prevented John from working on VR, and stopped investing in VR games across the company," Oculus' statement noted, adding, "Zenimax canceled VR support for Doom 3 BFG when Oculus refused Zenimax's demands for a non-dilutable equity stake in Oculus."

The company also took issue with the way Zenimax portrayed a non-disclosure agreement Luckey had signed, saying the company "misstated the purposes and language" of the document. On top of that, Oculus noted that Zenimax only made its legal claims on Oculus after the announcement of Facebook's $2 billion acquisition deal. Finally, Oculus noted that the full source code for the Rift software development kit is available online, but Zenimax had not pointed to any specifically stolen code or technology.

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Latest comments (3)

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 7 years ago
"A key reason that John permanently left Zenimax in August of 2013 was that Zenimax prevented John from working on VR, and stopped investing in VR games across the company,"

Game developers, wake up,.... You're doing it wrong.

Stop allowing yourselves to be treated like wage-shift factory workers. If a guy like John Carmack can't work on what he wants to because his "employer" is pushing things around, then we work in a seriously messed up business. Core creative drives things... not company administrators.
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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 7 years ago
Well, I can believe Zenimax's position, after all a lot of development/help from Carmack was during his time @ ID with Zenimax picking up the tab..
And we have no idea what was in the NDA contract luckey signed, so it's hard to tell what Zenimax really is talking about, but I'm sure everything will be clear when the lawyers are actually going to court..

And it's a problem developers have to be really conscious about, when developing applications/games at home in your free time, make pretty damn sure it's documented in your contract that your employer can't make any claims on it (except ofcourse unless it's actually using parts of code/components you developed at work with out their consent), because if you haven't sorted that out, it might be possible for your employer to lay claim on it and a lot of times it get's even awarded..
And in this case, I'm pretty sure Carmack did also some work/experimenting during worktime, and then it really can be a problem..

@Tim Carter: Yeah a person like Carmack can go out and setup a new company if he want's to, he has the money and the name. but for a noname developer it can be very hard to get a job, and let's not forget, people need money to pay their rent/food and can't afford to just setup their own companies (because only in your own company you can do whatever you want)..

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Jakobs on 5th May 2014 7:08pm

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Axel Cushing Freelance Writer 7 years ago
I think ZeniMax was probably caught just as flat-footed as the rest of the world was about this deal. Everything that's been published so far indicates it was done inside of 72 hours, which is near light speed for any sort of serious corporate deal. The timing doesn't surprise me. This is probably about as fast as they could react.

That said, Oculus does make an interesting point. If the SDK is readily available online, then everybody can see its code. ZeniMax, on the other hand, most likely has their code stuffed into a drive on some half-forgotten server rack somewhere. The only way anybody can and most likely will see their code to make a comparison will be during the discovery phase of an actual trial. At the very least, ZeniMax could have said "they stole such-and-such subroutines" or something along those lines.

What concerns me is that ZeniMax might be making the same mistake I think a lot of us are making. Technically, Oculus is part of Facebook, no matter what promises of independence have been made by Zuck. Does anybody think that if it really came down to a trial he wouldn't loan part of Facebook's legal staff to help preserve his investment? ZeniMax isn't dealing with a little dinky startup anymore. They're dealing with a unit of one of the largest corporations on the planet with a massive war chest. If ZeniMax thinks they can extort an out-of-court settlement that comes even close to the value of that "non-dilutable equity" stake they were looking for before, then I think they're in for a very rude surprise.
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