Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of virtual reality startup Oculus VR has already encountered its first hurdle, with Oculus’ Chief Technology Officer John Carmack accused of stealing key intellectual property from his former employer id Software, the studio that he co-founded.
Updated on 05-05-2014 by Will Fulton: We’ve added a quote from Carmack and Oculus VR’s full statement, both categorically denying Zenimax’s claim.
Carmack, who co-created the Doom and Wolfenstein 3D game franchises, recently departed the developer and its parent company, ZeniMax, to become CTO for Oculus. In recent correspondence between ZeniMax and Oculus obtained by The Wall Street Journal, ZeniMax claims that Carmack engaged in extensive research and development of the technology used for the Oculus Rift VR headset while employed by the video game publisher.
“The proprietary technology and know-how Mr. Carmack developed when he was a ZeniMax employee, and used by Oculus, are owned by ZeniMax,” the publisher claimed in a statement to Engadget. “Oculus has used and exploited ZeniMax’s technology and intellectual property without authorization, compensation or credit to ZeniMax. … ZeniMax believes it is necessary to address these matters now and will take the necessary action to protect its interests.”
Oculus has denied the allegations, insisting that the claim is a product of the highly publicized deal that brought the virtual reality company under Facebook’s stewardship.
An initial response from Oculus made the company’s stance clear: “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.” This position was solidified in a larger statement in which it threw down the gauntlet and challenged ZeniMax to get specific in its claims by cheekily pointing out that the Oculus code is open source and available online. The full statement is included below:
“We are disappointed but not surprised by Zenimax’s actions and we will prove that all of its claims are false.
In the meantime, we would like to clarify a few key points:
- There is not a line of Zenimax code or any of its technology in any Oculus products.
- John Carmack did not take any intellectual property from Zenimax.
- Zenimax has misstated the purposes and language of the Zenimax non-disclosure agreement that Palmer Luckey signed.
- A key reason that John permanently left Zenimax in August of 2013 was that Zenimax prevented John from working on VR, and stopped investing in VR games across the company.
- Zenimax canceled VR support for Doom 3 BFG when Oculus refused Zenimax’s demands for a non-dilutable equity stake in Oculus.
- Zenimax did not pursue claims against Oculus for IP or technology, Zenimax has never contributed any IP or technology to Oculus, and only after the Facebook deal was announced has Zenimax now made these claims through its lawyers.
- Despite the fact that the full source code for the Oculus SDK is available online (developer.oculusvr.com), Zenimax has never identified any ‘stolen’ code or technology.”
Carmack himself has also entered the fray, tweeting definitively that “Oculus uses zero lines of code that I wrote while under contract to Zenimax.”
While the issue remains confined to official correspondence and hasn’t moved into the legal arena yet, the high profile of the companies involved has attracted significant attention to the claims made by ZeniMax.
Article originally published on 05-01-2014.
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