In an amendment to a previously filed lawsuit, developer ZeniMax claims former employee and current Oculus CTO stole information and resources to build Oculus Rift.
As the world of gaming continues to progress it’s no surprise that virtual reality is the next big thing. Companies like Sony, HTC, and Oculus have been showing off and discussing their respective VR headsets for years, and gamers have been clamoring for a chance to get one.
So it comes as no surprise that as the major VR systems release to the public on a wide scale, there’s a messy legal battle brewing around the Oculus Rift VR headset. According to ZeniMax Media, a developer and publisher in the video game world, the Oculus Rift was created using research and technology stolen from ZeniMax.
ZeniMax filed their original suit in May 2014, but expanded on the complaint in an amendment filed on August 16. Said amendment directly accuses id Software co-founder and Oculus chief technology officer John Carmack of stealing resources that aided in the creation of the Oculus Rift.
For many years, ZeniMax invested tens of millions of dollars in research and development, including research into virtual reality and immersive technologies. In 2011 and 2012, John Carmack, a singularly experienced and highly proficient ZeniMax programmer who was at that time Technical Director for ZeniMax’s Texas-based subsidiary, id Software, conducted research to address technological issues associated with virtual reality. Carmack and other ZeniMax employees conducted that research at ZeniMax offices, on ZeniMax computers, and using ZeniMax resources.
The complaint continues, detailing how Carmack stole the information and tools needed to complete work on the Oculus Rift.
In the summer of 2013, Carmack’s employment contract with ZeniMax expired. On August 1, 2013, Carmack became Oculus’s Chief Technology Officer (‘CTO’). Before leaving ZeniMax, Carmack secretly and illegally copied thousands of documents containing ZeniMax’s intellectual property from his computer at ZeniMax to a USB storage device which he wrongfully took with him to Oculus. After he had joined Oculus, Carmack returned to ZeniMax’s premises and took without permission a customized tool that Carmack and other ZeniMax personnel had developed for work on virtual reality.
With the consumer version of the Oculus Rift set to release on September 20th, it’s unlikely the current lawsuit will do much to slow or halt production or sales. In fact, with Facebook now the proud owner of Oculus, it’s possible the lawsuit will be tied up in court for years while the opposing lawyers duke it out.
However, if the claims are true and the verdict lands on the side of ZeniMax, the developer may have a hefty payday in the future. As console makers prepare to release upgraded hardware, and as developers prepare to release various VR games, the VR market could easily be a multi-billion dollar industry in the next few years.
What do you think of the claims ZeniMax is making against Carmack and Oculus?
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