Zenimax Takes Legal Action Against John Carmack for Intellectual Property Theft

Zenimax claims that Carmack stole intellectual property on his way to Oculus.

Zenimax Studios is in the process of taking legal action against former employee John Carmack, who left his position with id Software for one with Oculus Rift before it was acquired by Facebook.

Zenimax told Game Informer that Carmack stole proprietary technology (software he had developed as an employee) on his way to Oculus.

“ZeniMax's intellectual property rights arise by reason of extensive VR research and development works done over a number of years by John Carmack while a ZeniMax employee, and others ... ZeniMax provided necessary VR technology and other valuable assistance to Palmer Luckey and other Oculus employees in 2012 and 2013 to make the Oculus Rift a viable VR product, superior to other VR market offerings.”

Zenimax also claims that, before the transaction with Facebook, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey confirmed in writing that some of its intellectual property was owned by Zenimax Studios.

The conflict arises from Zenimax selling some of its technology to Oculus, and the two companies were attempting to reach an agreement where Oculus would compensate Zenimax through equity ownership. However, neither side could reach a satisfactory agreement and the issue was never resolved.

Now that Facebook owns Oculus, things have become a little more sticky. A representative from Facebook Oculus stated:

“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."

It could be possible that there's more at play than we currently know; these are some pretty serious claims coming from Zenimax, and I seriously doubt it's all just a hissy fit that they themselves couldn't acquire Oculus. 

To me, it sounds more like Zenimax was attempting to put some faith and stock in Oculus as a small company trying to do big things--according to an anonymous source at the Wall Street Journal, Zenimax began its involvement with Oculus in August 2012, when the Kickstarter campaign began. Now that they're with a big company who has the means to do big things, Zenimax is looking to get paid for what they put in before the sellout.

What do you think?

Former Staff Editor

whale biologist.

Published May. 1st 2014
  • Clay
    Featured Contributor
    Seriousl? Why would anyone ever sue John Carmack of all people. He pioneered a lot of what PC gaming is today. If there was no licensing agreement in place and they gave up the code willingly back in 2012 this is just a greedy play.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    This is going to be quite interesting to watch and that I will be watching. I agree with Mary on the belief that there must be some truth to their claim. It would be catastrophic to their company to make such an accusation of this magnitude with all the ESO start-up issues they've had.
  • DemonicSkies
    If Zenimax is being honest about the employee using work developed while in contract with them, they have the right here. As Mary mentioned, they've been getting quite a bit of a lashing with ESO's start-up bugs (and constant bugs that are still happening). Obviously if there is clear proof that the software existed when this guy was still with Zenimax, it's theirs. It just seems like such an outlandish accusation, and one that would take effort to carry through, for them to have done this for no reason other than pettiness.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    Zenimax/Bethesda, did you feel like you hadn't had enough lawsuits this decade?
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    This could get real ugly real quick, I guess it already has :P.
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    With as much of a problem as Zenimax is having with ESO, I really would like to doubt that they would throw more fuel onto the fire by making claims that weren't true.

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