Update: John Carmack responded to the allegations on Twitter, saying ZeniMax doesn't "own VR".
Just when it looks like people are calming down about Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR, the Oculus Rift developer hits another bump in the road. A fairly substantial one involving lots of lawyers.
ZeniMax Media has sent claims to Oculus VR accusing John Carmack of taking intellectual property from id Software, which ZeniMax is the parent company of, when he left the developer for Oculus VR.
“It was only through the concerted efforts of Mr. Carmack, using technology developed over many years at, and owned by, ZeniMax, that [Oculus founder] Mr. Luckey was able to transform his garage-based pipe dream into a working reality,” states the claim, obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
Oculus VR has made it clear that it views the claim as ridiculous. “It's unfortunate, but when there's this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims. We intend to vigorously defend Oculus and its investors to the fullest extent,” the VR developer said to Engadget.
ZeniMax claims that it provided assistance and technology to Oculus VR, Palmer Luckey and Oculus employees across 2013 and 2014. The company also reasons that its intellectual property rights arise because Carmack researched and developed VR while working for ZeniMax.
Further more, the company claims that Palmer Luckey acknowledged ZeniMax’s property rights. “Well before the Facebook transaction was announced, Mr. Luckey acknowledged in writing ZeniMax's legal ownership of this intellectual property. It was further agreed that Mr. Luckey would not disclose this technology to third persons without approval. Oculus has used and exploited ZeniMax's technology and intellectual property without authorization, compensation or credit to ZeniMax. “
It seems like this isn’t the beginning of the dispute either. Both parties discussed the claim but were unable, says ZeniMax, to reach an agreement.
If an agreement hasn’t been made, it could result in a formal legal battle. Maybe Facebook’s army of expensive lawyers could lend a hand.
Carmack left former employers ZeniMax Media and the company he co-founded, id Software, last year. He started working at Oculus VR full time, continuing to act as the chief technology officer.
Earlier this year it came to light that Carmack would have stayed at id if ZeniMax had allowed games he had developed to appear on the Oculus Rift. But the parent company would not. “When it became clear that I wasn't going to have the opportunity to do any work on VR while at id software, I decided to not renew my contract,” he said.