Update May 15, 2017: Following their successful lawsuit against Oculus and Facebook, ZeniMax have now set their sights on Samsung's range of mobile VR devices.
In the new lawsuit, ZeniMax point out that Samsung are aware of the outcome of their Oculus lawsuit, yet the company is still releasing updates for Gear VR that say the tech is "powered by Oculus". Since Oculus paid out $50 million for copyright infringement, ZeniMax posit that this too uses their technology.
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In fact, ZeniMax say this was all brainstormed inside id Software's offices by former id executives John Carmack and Matt Hooper.
According to the complaint, Carmack snuck a fired Matt Hooper into the id offices in July, 2013. That night the pair formulated a plan to develop mobile VR, with an email allegedly sent to Carmack's contacts at Oculus detailing what they called an "attack plan".
ZeniMax are seeking damages and profits from the sales of “infringing works” and “use of trade secrets,”. They are also looking for royalties, injunctive relief and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees, court costs and interests.
Update February 1, 2017: Half a billion dollars was awarded to ZeniMax today by a Dallas, Texas, jury.
Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey and Oculus were found to be in breach of a non-disclosure agreement, hence the large award. However, the jury also said that Oculus did not misappropriate trade secrets as ZeniMax contended.
When contacted by Polygon, Oculus focused on the good news: “The heart of this case was about whether Oculus stole ZeniMax's trade secrets, and the jury found decisively in our favor,” said an Oculus spokesperson. “We're obviously disappointed by a few other aspects of today's verdict, but we are undeterred.
"Oculus products are built with Oculus technology. Our commitment to the long-term success of VR remains the same, and the entire team will continue the work they've done since day one - developing VR technology that will transform the way people interact and communicate. We look forward to filing our appeal and eventually putting this litigation behind us.”
Facebook already paid $2 billion for Oculus, so I can't imagine the company being too happy at the outcome of this particular case. If you want some history on the lawsuit, the original reports are below.
Update January 19, 2017: Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey has testified.
The Oculus/ZeniMax trial continues. Oculus engineer and co-founder Palmer Luckey took the stand yesterday, just before his partner (and current Oculus CEO) Brendan Iribe. ZeniMax's main line of questioning attacked Luckey's ability to build a VR prototype on his own, which seemed to annoy him.
ZeniMax’s case depends on proving that their intellectual property was integral to the success of the Oculus Rift, and was shared in violation of an NDA by people such as former id Software CTO John Carmack. Carmack's collaboration with Luckey dates to before he resigned from id, who are owned by ZeniMax, so both parties were required to sign the NDA in order to protect ZeniMax’s trade secrets.
According to Polygon, Luckey’s testimony began with ZeniMax’s lawyer asserting that he - a college dropout - couldn’t have built the Rift without help from Carmack. ZeniMax didn’t argue that Carmack was directly involved, but were trying to show that his contribution was sufficient to break the NDA.
A series of emails was presented, suggesting that Luckey misrepresented who was aware of the NDA (signed in early June 2012) and tried to skirt its restrictions. An argument built over what was and was not subject to the NDA, and both Luckey and ZeniMax’s lawyer lost their cool, with Luckey adding context to every point and quibbling over technical details. Presiding Judge Ed Kinceade had to intervene to keep the pair from talking over one another.
The defence countered ZeniMax’s points, saying the Rage-based VR testbed and the Doom 3 BFG edition demo had both entered public knowledge and thus couldn’t be subject to the NDA. On Luckey's competence, they pointed out that he had started researching VR in his mid-teens and built his first prototype headset on his own in 2010, two years before first being contacted by Carmack.
Iribe’s testimony was much more technical in nature, with Iribe insisting that everything that went into Oculus's software was their own work and nothing to do with Carmack's contributions. His testimony is due to conclude today.
Update January 18, 2017: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has testified in the ZeniMax/Oculus trial.
Yesterday, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg gave testimony in the trial in which Oculus, which his company now own, stand accused of stealing intellectual property from ZeniMax media. Zuckerberg indicated that the total sum paid by Facebook to acquire Oculus was in fact $3 billion, far more than the $2 billion widely reported at the time, and more even than Microsoft paid to acquire Minecraft.
Zuckerberg said that in addition to the $2 billion price tag to acquire Oculus directly, Facebook also paid $700 million to retain Oculus employees, and a further $300 million earn-out when Oculus hit certain targets (an ‘earn-out’ is a provision whereby the seller of a business will receive additional payments based on their future performance).
ZeniMax allege that Oculus employees, including co-founder Palmer Luckey, CTO John Carmack and CEO Brendan Iribe, conspired to steal their trade secrets. Full details on their case are in our original coverage, below.
It emerged during Zuckerberg’s testimony that Facebook originally gave their lawyers just one weekend to do their due diligence on Oculus. From the twitter feed of Mike Isaac of the New York Times:
Lawyer, incredulously: "Your plan was to begin legal diligence on Friday, and sign the deal on monday."— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) January 17, 2017
Zuckerberg then says he delayed the deal to ensure that key people from the Oculus team could be retained.
He insists that Oculus and their founders weren't invovled in any wrongdoing, but claimed to be unaware that Luckey had signed a non-disclosure agreement when corresponding with Carmack and others during early development on the Oculus Rift. He also says he didn’t know that Carmack allegedly brought code and over 10,000 technical documents with him when he joined Oculus after leaving Id Software, the famous games studio which he co-founded, and which is now owned by ZeniMax.
“No, I wasn’t aware of that,” he says. “It’s something we should investigate.”
Luckey is due to testify later this week, with Carmack and other Oculus employees to follow.
Many thanks to Silicon Angle.
Update January 16, 2017: It's been a long and drawn out battle, but things are finally heating up in the ZeniMax vs. Oculus/Facebook lawsuit over alleged stolen tech.
Back in May 2014 ZeniMax accused Oculus of basing their VR headset on unlawfully-acquired ZeniMax tech, with the help of John Carmack, who now works at Oculus. The opening statements began last week. Following those statements, each side has also been happy to comment on the case, and ZeniMax claim they have the proof to put the thing to bed.
“With the start of the trial of our case in Federal District Court in Dallas against Defendants Facebook, Oculus and its management, ZeniMax and id Software welcome the opportunity to present substantial evidence of the Defendants’ misappropriation of our Virtual Reality (VR) intellectual property,” ZeniMax said in a statement provided to Polygon.
“That evidence includes the theft of trade secrets and highly confidential information, including computer code. ZeniMax will also present evidence of the Defendants’ intentional destruction of evidence to cover up their wrongdoing. ZeniMax and id Software are the visionary developers of breakthrough VR technology, and look forward to the vindication of our claims.”
As Polygon report, a court-appointed forensic expert was hired to go through former id Software chief tech officer John Carmack's computer in search of any incriminating evidence, so this assertion could be tied to the expectations of the expert's findings, which will likely be presented in court.
Both Carmack and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg are scheduled to testify in the case.
“We’re eager to present our case in court,” Oculus said to Polygon. “Oculus and its founders have invested a wealth of time and money in VR because we believe it can fundamentally transform the way people interact and communicate. We’re disappointed that another company is using wasteful litigation to attempt to take credit for technology that it did not have the vision, expertise, or patience to build.”
Original Story August 22, 2016: If anyone thought the lawsuit between Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax and VR specialists Oculus was likely to calm down any time soon, they’re sadly mistaken. Things have just been taken up a notch.
In an amendment to the complaint it first filed against Oculus back in 2014, ZeniMax have directly accused John Carmack - the one time co-founder of id Software and current CTO at Oculus - of stealing confidential files and VR tech during his last days working for the company.
Indeed, ZeniMax claim Carmack even came back to ZeniMax’s offices after his tenure at id had come to an end in order to remove some of the aforementioned items.
“Instead of complying with his contract, during his last days at ZeniMax, he copied thousands of documents from a computer at ZeniMax to a USB storage device,” alleges the amendment.
“He never returned those files or all copies of them after his employment with ZeniMax was terminated. 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.”
The core of ZeniMax’s allegation is that Oculus, who were acquired by Facebook in 2014 for a hefty $2 billion, have built their business upon technology effectively stolen from ZeniMax by Carmack. As a result, ZeniMax claim Oculus founder Palmer Luckey has been dining out on someone else’s story, claiming credit for VR tech it states he has no real connection to.
"Oculus, at [CEO Brendan] Iribe’s direction, 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," the amendment continues, noting that Luckey signed an NDA with ZeniMax over their proprietary information. "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.
“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."
Where things get really juicy is the manner in which ZeniMax are now pointing the finger at Facebook. The social network acquired Oculus in 2014, but the company states this was after ZeniMax had commenced their action against both Oculus and Luckey - a move they suggest was widely covered in both the consumer and industry focused press.
ZeniMax assert Facebook must have been aware of the action, and therefore are equally bound by the NDA Luckey had signed. As a result, ZeniMax argue Facebook interfered with an executed contract.
In response, Oculus have maintained their previous position that ZeniMax’s assertions are unfounded. "This complaint filed by ZeniMax is one-sided and conveys only ZeniMax's interpretation of the story," an Oculus spokesperson said in reply. "We continue to believe this case has no merit, and we will address all of ZeniMax's allegations in court."
Expect this one to run and run. Thanks Game Informer.