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John Carmack sues ZeniMax for $22.5m from id Software deal

Oculus CTO alleges "sour grapes" as ZeniMax refuses to pay due to the findings of its Oculus VR lawsuit

John Carmack is suing ZeniMax Media for $22.5 million, which he claims the company still owes him from its acquisition of id Software in 2009.

The lawsuit, which was filed with a Texas court yesterday, is rooted in ZeniMax Media's $150 million acquisition of id Software, four years before Carmack left the company to become CTO of Oculus VR. As the major shareholder, Carmack was due to receive $45.1 million, half of which he received in the form of ZeniMax shares. However, the other half, $22.5 million, still hasn't been paid.

The sticking point is the recent legal action between ZeniMax and Oculus, which resulted in the former being awarded $500 million for copyright infringement and false designation. That money was paid by Oculus and its two founders, Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe, but ZeniMax Media's case made a number of allegations against Carmack, including the theft of code and documents.

According to the lawsuit, these "claimed violations of Mr. Carmack's Employment Agreement and ZeniMax's alleged intellectual property rights" were cited by ZeniMax when it "made it clear that the company would not voluntarily comply on a timely basis." However, the suit states that no claim for breach of contract was brought by ZeniMax against Carmack as part of the Oculus case.

"Sour grapes is not an affirmative defense to breach of contract," it said.

ZeniMax has responded with a statement, which it opens by stating that Carmack's complaint is "completely without merit." The rest of the statement is published below.

"Sour grapes is not an affirmative defense to breach of contract"

"In the recently completed trial of ZeniMax Media Inc. et al v Oculus VR et al, in which Mr. Carmack was a named Defendant, and in which ZeniMax was awarded $500 million in damages for misappropriation of its intellectual property, Carmack had counterclaimed, seeking damages for ZeniMax's alleged violations of his employment agreement. The jury flatly rejected Mr. Carmack's complaint, and found for ZeniMax.

"Mr. Carmack was personally found guilty by the jury of the theft of ZeniMax's property, including thousands of confidential ZeniMax documents he secretly took when he quit his employment, and his theft of the entire source code to id's latest game, RAGE, including the id tech 5 engine. In addition to those crimes, it was revealed by an independent court-appointed computer forensics expert, that upon receiving notice of the Oculus lawsuit, the files on Mr. Carmack's Oculus computer were intentionally wiped-destroying the evidence, and that a sworn affidavit Carmack filed with the Court denying the wiping was false. The wiping occurred right after Mr. Carmack researched on Google how to wipe a hard drive. And there was much more.

"Apparently lacking in remorse, and disregarding the evidence of his many faithless acts and violations of law, Mr. Carmack has decided to try again. We look forward to presenting our response to Mr. Carmack's latest allegations in Court."

It should be noted that Carmack has contested much of what ZeniMax claimed in court. "I never tried to hide or wipe any evidence, and all of my data is accounted for, contrary to some stories being spread," he said last month.

He also took issue with the logical foundations of the "non-literal copying" that was integral to ZeniMax Media's allegation, saying "The notion of non-literal copying is probably delicious to many lawyers, since a sufficient application of abstraction and filtering can show that just about everything is related."

This new lawsuit is just one way in which the ZeniMax vs. Oculus trial continues to reverberate. Oculus has pledged to appeal the jury's decision, and ZeniMax filed for an injunction against software using contested code last month.

The lawsuit was posted by Upload VR, and can be read in full here.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar

Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.