Bethesda parent company ZeniMax claims the Rift was built using stolen tech

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In 2013, legendary game programmer John Carmack left id Software and its parent company Zenimax, to pursue a future in the future. Carmack went on to work for Oculus, the company behind the recently released Rift.

A year later, and the company that was once home to Carmack began to file suit against Oculus, saying that Carmack had stolen company assets in his move to the peddlers of Virtual Reality.

Here’s what the initial filing said:

“The suit arises from the defendants’ unlawful exploitation of intellectual property, including trade secrets, copyrighted computer code, and technical know-how relating to virtual reality technology that was developed by ZeniMax after years of research and investment,” says the filing.

Now, two years later, and the case is really heating up. And ZeniMax is attacking it with everything they’ve got. And what they’ve got are some pretty heavy accusations in a new filing.

“Instead of complying with his contract, during his last days at ZeniMax, [Carmack] copied thousands of documents from a computer at ZeniMax to a USB storage device. He never returned those files or all copies of them after his employment with ZeniMax was terminated,” Zenimax’s latest filing claims.

“In addition, after Carmack’s employment with ZeniMax was terminated, he returned to ZeniMax’s premises to take a customized tool for developing VR Technology belonging to ZeniMax that itself is part of ZeniMax’s VR technology.”

ZeniMax claims that the Rift was developed using technology and ideas they owned, and that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey signed Non disclosure agreements promising not to share that tech. Luckey then went on to start Oculus.

“Oculus … disseminated to the press the false and fanciful story that Luckey was the brilliant inventor of VR technology who had developed that technology in his parents’ garage. In fact, that story was utterly and completely false: Luckey lacked the training, expertise, resources, or know-how to create commercially viable VR technology, his computer programming skills were rudimentary, and he relied on ZeniMax’s computer program code and games to demonstrate the prototype Rift,” alleges ZeniMax in the suit.

“Nevertheless, this fraudulent tale was frequently reported in the media as fact. Luckey increasingly and falsely held himself out to the media and the public as the visionary developer of the Rift’s VR Technology, which had actually been developed by ZeniMax without any substantial contribution from Luckey.”

Those are some pretty serious accusations. With the suit against Oculus, Zenimax is in fact taking on the decidedly big dog Facebook, which likely has significantly more legal muscle behind it. They’re looking for a trial by jury, so they have to believe that their claims have substantial merit. If they do, it could change the face of virtual reality. If they go in to protracted litigation with Facebook and end up losing, this could be the beginning of the end for ZeniMax and the developers that fall under its umbrella, like id Software and Bethesda.

We’ve receieved a statament from an Oculus spokesperson, who says:

This complaint filed by ZeniMax is one-sided and conveys only ZeniMax’s interpretation of the story. We continue to believe this case has no merit, and we will address all of ZeniMax’s allegations in court.

Last Updated: August 23, 2016

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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