After a war of words for some time on Twitter, in late May ZeniMax officially filed a lawsuit against Oculus VR and founder Palmer Luckey, alleging that Oculus misappropriated ZeniMax trade secrets relating to virtual reality technology. Today, the VR firm has filed its official response in the U.S. District Court for Northern Texas (sent to GamesIndustry International and other media), stating that ZeniMax "falsely claims ownership in Oculus VR technology in a transparent attempt to take advantage of the Oculus VR sale to Facebook."
The suit continues, "By deliberately misstating some facts and omitting others, ZeniMax makes the incredible assertion that it, a videogame software publishing company for personal computers and consoles like the Sony PlayStation, invented and developed a virtual reality hardware and software system. The truth is quite different. There is not a line of ZeniMax code or any of its technology in any Oculus VR product."
Oculus stresses that ZeniMax only now, after the Facebook acquisition of the VR company, is showing any interest in the technology and that the publisher could have made a move to secure the tech long ago before Facebook got involved.
"...ZeniMax had the full source code for the Oculus VR software for over a year and a half (having received it directly from Oculus VR well before it was even released publicly), and could have analyzed it online anytime (at developer.oculusvr.com). Until the Facebook deal, and the perceived chance for a quick payout, ZeniMax never raised any claim of infringement against Oculus VR, undoubtedly because ZeniMax never has contributed any intellectual property or technology to Oculus VR," the statement reads.
The 32-page response goes on to note that former id Software executive and current Oculus team member John Carmack warned Palmer Luckey that many people could misconstrue Luckey's invention as Carmack's work. "I am doing my best to not let anyone mistake the Rift as my work, but I'm sure someone is going to get it confused next week. I am sensitive to the fact that the press has a tendency to over-attribute things to me, because 'genius inventor' is such a convenient story hook," Carmack warned Luckey in an email prior to one of the Rift headset's first E3 demos.
Ultimately, Oculus asserts that ZeniMax is just looking to fix a "massive missed opportunity." In December 2012, Oculus actually sent its source code to ZeniMax and gave the publisher a number of opportunities to invest but ZeniMax never did; moreover, the company didn't make any claims about ownership of the technology or code until a year and half later following the Facebook acquisition. Oculus states that ZeniMax suffered no damages, and if it did, it was only due to its own negligence.
Oculus is demanding a jury trial in its official legal response. This battle will no doubt drag on for some time. We'll keep you posted on any new developments.