ZeniMax Sues Oculus VR Over Stolen Trade Secrets

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ZeniMax Sues Oculus VR Over Stolen Trade Secrets

John Carmack

ZeniMax Media and Id Software have filed a lawsuit against Oculus VR and founder Palmer Luckey for "illegally misappropriating" its virtual reality trade secrets.

ZeniMax Media announced today that it has begun legal action against Oculus Rift maker Oculus VR, claiming illegal misappropriation of its virtual reality trade secrets, copyright and trademark infringement, breach of contract, unjust enrichment and unfair competition. The two companies appeared headed for trouble earlier this month when ZeniMax, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, Id Software and various other studios, accused Oculus VR of making unauthorized use of its proprietary technology; Oculus denied the claim outright, stating among other things, "There is not a line of Zenimax code or any of its technology in any Oculus products."

ZeniMax claimed that while Luckey has "held himself out to the public as the visionary developer of virtual reality technology," it is actually responsible for developing the technology behind the Oculus VR headset. It also said that attempts to reach an amicable resolution to the dispute had been unsuccessful, which ultimately forced it to file suit.

"Intellectual property forms the foundation of our business," ZeniMax Chairman and CEO Robert Altman said in a statement. "We cannot ignore the unlawful exploitation of intellectual property that we develop and own, nor will we allow misappropriation and infringement to go unaddressed."

The lawsuit says ZeniMax has been researching VR technology as far back as the 1990s, and had actually created prototype VR software for early Elder Scrolls games. It also references statements made by John Carmack, formerly of Id Software, about work he'd done on the Rift prototype while he was still an employee of ZeniMax, as well as email exchanges between him and Luckey, and various other key figures at ZeniMax and Oculus, regarding the headset. And it turns out that trouble between the two companies has actually been brewing since the summer of 2012, when Oculus VR used footage from Doom 3: BFG Edition in its Kickstarter promo video, despite ZeniMax refusing to grant it permission to do so.

Interestingly, the lawsuit has been filed jointly by ZeniMax Media and Id Software, and while John Carmack featured prominently in initial reports of the dispute, he is not specifically named as a defendant.

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boy zenimax is in full copyright troll mode now

now they are arguing they had developed VR technology for year... though they never used it in any way shape or form, but since they did develop it they say OR mustve copied... yeah right

the Doom 3 footage debacle, yeah it seems they have some solid grounds there but thats the only thing

i wish copyright law wasnt so nippletwistingly retarded, that way OR wouldnt have been basically forced to sell themselves to FB

So first ESO tanks hard and then Zenimax take a crack at the playbook of EA. colour me surprised..

The evidence ZeniMax claims to have is pretty damning. Only one problem: I firmly believe they are lying. I don't know what their lawyers are trying to pull here, but I rather suspect they'll get their asses handed to them.

P.S. Thanks

P.P.S. On the exceedingly slim chance they're telling the truth, and they do have a legal case against Oculus VR, I do hope they win. But I still don't believe them, not even a little bit.

This just sounds like someone lost their best friend to a new kid in town and now they are throwing a temper-tantrum. If I was Zenimax, I would have been thrilled to have John Carmack on my payroll. Now that he's not, they've probably lost the only real creative genius they have.

I'm hoping this fails on all counts.

I don't get this. It's a patent troll...without a patent?

A trade secret is not a patent and does not enjoy exclusivity protection.

What specific copyright violations are they claiming? O.R. says there's no copied code.

And last... Trademark? ...That must be the demo reel thing?

So... How many days till all the Zenimax and it's IPs Facebook pages go down?

Covarr:
The evidence ZeniMax claims to have is pretty damning. Only one problem: I firmly believe they are lying. I don't know what their lawyers are trying to pull here, but I rather suspect they'll get their asses handed to them.

P.S. Thanks

P.P.S. On the exceedingly slim chance they're telling the truth, and they do have a legal case against Oculus VR, I do hope they win. But I still don't believe them, not even a little bit.

Here the whole thing in a nutshell: ZeniMax and Carmack had a contract. We don't know what was in that contract. We know for a fact that Carmack was working on OR software while working at ZeniMax. ZeniMax at the least has a legitimate argument, I don't think they are trolling like a ton of other companies. It depends on how the court systems interprets that contract and details of the code. Most like there is going to be a settlement and the public will never know the real truth.

Standard employment contract in computer software industry.

'Anything to do with software you create while you work for us belongs to us'.

If this goes to court Zenimax will win and probably be found to own everything to do with Oculus Rift.

That's why Facebook will just give them lots of money to go away.

Other things Zenimax considers Trade Secrets:
-The Pope's Religious views
-Where Bears shit
-The existence of the word "Scrolls"
-The colour blue
-The number 6
-Pretty much everything else

Kumagawa Misogi:
Anything to do with software you create while you work for us belongs to us'.

Translation: We own you.

Didn't you Yanks have some war over slavery or something?

Fuck you, ZeniMax/Bethesda. You've ruined the release of Wolfenstein: TNO in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and now you're trying to lawyer your way through Oculus Rift VR tech. Thing is that I just don't trust you.

Seriously, fuck off. No money from me to you any more. Die, shitty company. Die.

If the trade secret that was "leaked" isn't disclosed in court, then they should't be having the trial.

I hope that Oculus starts by asking for discovery of which trade secrets & technology could have been released.

Kumagawa Misogi:
Standard employment contract in computer software industry.

'Anything to do with software you create while you work for us belongs to us'.

If this goes to court Zenimax will win and probably be found to own everything to do with Oculus Rift.

That's why Facebook will just give them lots of money to go away.

Yeah, no. There's no way that John Carmack signed a contract saying every bit of software he worked on while id was owned by Zenimax belonged to them. Things he developed in his office for id projects? Sure. Stuff he did on his own time to help out a completely separate company? No way in hell. A man who's that prolific a coder and software engineer does not sign a contract like that, and those sorts of contracts are absolutely not standard in the industry. Hell, I'm not even sure they'd be enforceable since what you make in your own home on your own time is not their business. If they're not paying you to make it, they don't own it.

Kumagawa Misogi:
Standard employment contract in computer software industry.

'Anything to do with software you create while you work for us belongs to us'.

If this goes to court Zenimax will win and probably be found to own everything to do with Oculus Rift.

That's why Facebook will just give them lots of money to go away.

It's going to be hard because Facebook is in California and will want to do court in California because "non compete" clauses are not legal there.

Vivi22:
and those sorts of contracts are absolutely not standard in the industry.

I've been a software dev for a number of years now, those contracts are very standard. I usually get them amended when I start a new job, however, to exclude things outside of the industry the company is working in as I like to develop games as a hobby and don't want whatever company I work at to own that.

Pyrian:
I don't get this. It's a patent troll...without a patent?

A trade secret is not a patent and does not enjoy exclusivity protection.

What specific copyright violations are they claiming? O.R. says there's no copied code.

And last... Trademark? ...That must be the demo reel thing?

Read my posts in this thread.

Vivi22:
A man who's that prolific a coder and software engineer does not sign a contract like that.

Apples and oranges. Being a great engineer has nothing to do with being smart about contracts.

Vivi22:
...and those sorts of contracts are absolutely not standard in the industry.

They sure are. Assignment of Inventions language appears in 15% of Executive Employment Agreements, 40% of Independent Contractor Agreements, and, as a stand-alone clause, 85% of Employee Invention Assignment Agreements.

Vivi22:
Hell, I'm not even sure they'd be enforceable since what you make in your own home on your own time is not their business. If they're not paying you to make it, they don't own it.

They are enforceable.

Oh, hell. They're going forward with this?

Contrary to everyone's opinions, I don't want Zenimax/Bethesda to lose completely on this because, well, the Bethesda part still made a bunch of games that I happen to like a lot (TES, the new Fallouts, etc.) and, in general, lawsuits like this are really just getting in the way of what could be otherwise development of some interesting technology. VR has far more utilization than just "immersive video games" and I'd love that, at the very least, the technology gets finished before all the companies start jumping on it and trying to patent it for themselves.

As it stands, it's still in an experimental state, and now it's being bogged down by this stupid lawsuit. :|

This ones iffy now that Zenimax has the cojones to take this to court. If Carmack or whoever did sign a contract stating his work belonged to Zenimax and Oculus is now using code he developed while under Zenimax's employment, then it's up to the laws of the jurisdiction and the court's interpretation of the contract and the law to decide who's right. Though, I doubt Oculus would hire Carmack and let him start working without quitting id first, if he had that kind of legal baggage on his shoulders. I've had to sign similar contracts just to fix cars that hadn't even made it to the dealerships, yet.

I still say Zenimax is butthurt over loosing Carmack and their lackluster recent releases. They might have a good case here, but I think they're still trying to scare Oculus into a settlement and, if they do go to court, rely on dumb non-tech savvy jurors[1] to get an easy win.

[1] Protip: To get out of jury duty(and its sub-par reimbursement for you time), study as much as you can about the case before you are interviewed by the lawyers. They usually look for the least knowledgeable, easiest to convince people to help them win a case. (Of course, that might be one reason why the US Justice system is screwed up. No one cares, and the people who could make well educated decisions got out of there before even the first hearing.

Everyone knows how good Carmack is, he wouldn't need to steal tech or code when he could invent it himself. I think Zenimax wants a close look at O.R's operating code so they can get their VR tech moving forward.

"Intellectual property forms the foundation of our business,"
Founding your business on something that isnt a legal concept - always the best way to make sure you win in court!

Adraeus:

They are enforceable.

then your legal system has failed.
They shouldnt be. What i coded on my own time should not belong to the company, only what i did while im working for them.

Originality:
I'm hoping this fails on all counts.

I'm actually hoping for the opposite.

Partially because I [strongly dislike] facebook.
Primarily because I'd hate to see ZeniMax as a villain.

We lost so many to the dark side already, we don't need another one.
I'm running out of publishers whose games I'm still allowed to buy without feeling bad about it.

Strazdas:
"Intellectual property forms the foundation of our business,"
Founding your business on something that isnt a legal concept - always the best way to make sure you win in court!

Adraeus:

They are enforceable.

then your legal system has failed.
They shouldnt be. What i coded on my own time should not belong to the company, only what i did while im working for them.

Thank Thomas Jefferson for that one. He was the biggest patent troll of all that ever was, patent Trolls have always had a lot of influence in the States, and they have had a lot of say in the creation of laws on the area.

Hence the system favors people with a lot of money who patent everything (even with no intention of doing anything with it) and favors companies treating employees like slaves.

Strazdas:
"Intellectual property forms the foundation of our business,"
Founding your business on something that isnt a legal concept - always the best way to make sure you win in court!

Adraeus:

Vivi22:
Hell, I'm not even sure they'd be enforceable since what you make in your own home on your own time is not their business. If they're not paying you to make it, they don't own it.

They are enforceable.

then your legal system has failed.
They shouldnt be. What i coded on my own time should not belong to the company, only what i did while im working for them.

Well, I'm going to ruin the US Justice System for you. CGP Grey, take it away!

Mangod:

Adraeus:

Vivi22:
Hell, I'm not even sure they'd be enforceable since what you make in your own home on your own time is not their business. If they're not paying you to make it, they don't own it.

They are enforceable.

Well, I'm going to ruin the US Justice System for you. CGP Grey, take it away!

Yeah, so... That's not what we're talking about. The video, in case you're confused, is about criminal law, this is a civil case. Second, and your video does mention it, Judges can set aside the jury's verdict for any number of reasons. Third, your odds of actually getting a jury that will flat out ignore the facts in a case, and not get the case thrown out in the process... see Apple v. Samsung, you know, if you're still confused on how that can happen. ...are slim as hell.

So, at the end of the day, you have someone who was paid a lot of money by a company with certain expectations, and someone else who took the money, and then screwed their employers over. Even if it goes to jury, praying for nullification is like hoping for divine intervention, it's not going to happen.

EDIT: While I'm thinking about it, not naming Carmack is weird as hell, but it would also make something like this basically a no go. If they had Carmack up there pleading about how tech is his life, and presenting it as a David versus Goliath struggle of one man against The Man. But, this is going to be framed as corporate espionage, and juries are a lot less sympathetic to that.

I actually hope they win. I don't care if it's a lie, I hope they win and they get to patent their own OR or whatever.

That way maybe at least ONE of them will focus on the FUCKING GAMES.

But really, after the Chuck E. Cheese crap and the porn news i'll just abandon my lust for this. I always thought the first thing made with virtual reality would be about a spaceship flying simulator with dogfights.

Nope, porn.

I hope they lose and lose resoundingly, because I don't want it to set a precedent where companies own their employees and everything they do in their free time or after they quit.

I'd love to see Facebook getting a massive legal slap in the face, on the other hand I consider both of these companies to be sleazy greedy scumbags, so the only one I can root for as a winner is really Carmack.

I am willing to bet Facebook ends up throwing money at Zenimax and telling them to go away. That is usually how these copyrights disputes end.

Adraeus:

Vivi22:
Hell, I'm not even sure they'd be enforceable since what you make in your own home on your own time is not their business. If they're not paying you to make it, they don't own it.

They are enforceable.

Not in every state. It's considered void in California for example.

I'll be interesting to see how all of this plays out. Zenimax may honestly have a claim to this. In which case, they should be entitled to some to the pie that the investors were already paid. The net result for the Rift should be a net null though as long as Zenimax's intention is money and not stopping the rift from using their technology.

What's interesting is that Carmack says he uses zero lines of code. What I actually take this to mean is that they do use concepts he figured out at Zenimax but he has recoded it from scratch. The code doesn't have to be identical for the mechanics behind it to have been appropriated. So this is actually feasible.

iniudan:

Adraeus:

Vivi22:
Hell, I'm not even sure they'd be enforceable since what you make in your own home on your own time is not their business. If they're not paying you to make it, they don't own it.

They are enforceable.

Not in every state. It's considered void in California for example.

It really depends on what court jurisdiction the case is tried in. Just because Carmack and Oculus are in California doesn't mean that it will be tried using a state court system.

But you're certainly correct. It isn't black and white as to whether or not it's enforceable.

Strazdas:
They shouldnt be. What i coded on my own time should not belong to the company, only what i did while im working for them.

Unless you signed a contract saying that it does, which as several people have noted, is pretty standard in the software industry. I have friends who work for JP Morgan Chase doing application development, and their employment contract has that language as well, basically anything they code while they're employed there belongs to the employer. I had that language in my contract when I worked for Microprose.

Wait they are suing them now? After they have Facebook backing?

Well props for ZeniMax for playing fair and not bullying the little guys XD

Vivi22:

Kumagawa Misogi:
Standard employment contract in computer software industry.

'Anything to do with software you create while you work for us belongs to us'.

If this goes to court Zenimax will win and probably be found to own everything to do with Oculus Rift.

That's why Facebook will just give them lots of money to go away.

Yeah, no. There's no way that John Carmack signed a contract saying every bit of software he worked on while id was owned by Zenimax belonged to them. Things he developed in his office for id projects? Sure. Stuff he did on his own time to help out a completely separate company? No way in hell. A man who's that prolific a coder and software engineer does not sign a contract like that, and those sorts of contracts are absolutely not standard in the industry. Hell, I'm not even sure they'd be enforceable since what you make in your own home on your own time is not their business. If they're not paying you to make it, they don't own it.

Carmack is a genius when it comes to programming. But he's not the guy that cares much about fine print in contracts. And yes, that type of contract is very standard in the software industry and the epeople who sign it just deal with it.

Ok, I've read the court document:

http://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/assets/4490157/1-main.pdf

It... it actually looks like Zenimax has a case. From the paper it looks like Carmack and other Zenimax employees actually helped him build the original prototype by providing both hardware and software expertise they were using at Zenimax at the time. Before Zenimax, the paper claims that the rift lacked a headmount, VR-specific Software, integrated motion sensors, and other critical features and capabilities that Zenimax employees gave them. But they actually managed to get a non-disclosure at this point, apparently.

With the non-disclosure in hand, Zenimax then arranged demonstrations of the Rift prototype in the Bethesda booth at E3. Zenimax also says they designed the SDK and directed its development. After the success of E3, Luckey continued to rely on Zenimax employees for support and assistance and Zenimax began discussing appropriate compensation for their role in the hardware and software development as well as E3 marketing that played a vital role in the product's existence. They then began to get the cold shoulder as new investors swooped in and started buying the business from Luckey.

The document also confirms that Carmack signed away rights to anything he made that related to the Zenimax research and development during his employment which would have included any code he wrote for the Rift since Bethesda has VR research on hand from the 90's. They even include a quote from Carmack in that E3 conference referencing his VR research with Zenimax and Id Software. Zenimax had been developing/researching headset VR displays since 2011 with the number one problem being the latency which they'd been specifically working on since.

There's another quote from Carmack stating that Luckey sent him the optics and he added in his own hardware from the five headmounts Carmack already had in his office before getting Luckey's prototype. Carmack lists adding sensors, head strap, software and "stuff". They specifically came up with the low latency and specifically recommended the high-field of view.

Once Luckey started trying to commercialize the product, only then did Zenimax begin trying to discuss compensation.

There's even evidence printed to suggest that Carmack quickly worked to rewrite code after Zenimax's lawyers sent them letters this year. That his "line of code" comment is only true because he recently made it so in response to the allegations.

Frankly... if this is all true, then we actually owe a significant amount of gratitude to Zenimax. This is incredible. That they gave him all the technology at the start without demanding compensation is remarkable and generous even, but they did rightfully get a nondisclosure signed by Luckey and specifically reserved rights to their technology as protection for them letting Luckey go forward with the demo. I mean, if this is true the Luckey had very little to do with the product at all and this really is more Zenimax product than not. This paper indicates that he took all kinds of Zenimax hardware and software and ran it all the way to the bank. Oculus/Facebook's response will have to be epic to discredit any of this. They have backed up everything with direct quotes and have built a solid case. I feel a little guilty for being so strongly on team Oculus' side before the evidence really cropped up. I'm just glad I stated several times to wait on more information.

When is someone in the federal government going to crack down on the eastern district of Texas. The courts there have become shills for the trademark/patent trolls. There needs to be some serious investigation into the judges that keep this legislation slanted in their favor and then refuse to move the courts to a different venue.

ike42:
When is someone in the federal government going to crack down on the eastern district of Texas. The courts there have become shills for the trademark/patent trolls. There needs to be some serious investigation into the judges that keep this legislation slanted in their favor and then refuse to move the courts to a different venue.

Read my post immediately above yours. This isn't patent trolling. Zenimax basically put together the original prototype and then Luckey ran off with the finished product. He had even signed a non-disclosure that should have protected Zenimax from him doing this.

Look, I was all against Zenimax before the document but this is a severe breach of meaningful patents and technology that really is Zenimax's. I can't believe it either.

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