ZeniMax Sues Oculus [UPDATE: Oculus Responds]

Illustration for article titled ZeniMax Sues Oculus [UPDATE: Oculus Responds]

The folks who publish Doom are suing the new employer of the man who helped create it.

Following a number of verbal barbs swapped between both companies over the past few weeks, the game publisher ZeniMax announced today that they've filed suit against VR company Oculus for "illegally misappropriating ZeniMax trade secrets relating to virtual reality technology, and infringing ZeniMax copyrights and trademarks."


The folks at ZeniMax—which publishes games like The Elder Scrolls and Wolfenstein—say that Doom co-creator John Carmack provided technology and information to Oculus before he left ZeniMax subsidiary id Software for the virtual reality company last year. ZeniMax also wrote in a press release today that "[their] intellectual property has provided the fundamental technology driving the Oculus Rift since its inception."

Oculus, the company that makes that much-hyped Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, was purchased by Facebook earlier this year for $2 billion.

Here's the full press release sent out by ZeniMax today (emphasis ours):

ROCKVILLE, Md., May 21, 2014 (BUSINESS WIRE) — ZeniMax Media Inc. and its subsidiary, id Software LLC, filed suit today against Oculus VR, Inc. and its founder, Palmer Luckey, for illegally misappropriating ZeniMax trade secrets relating to virtual reality technology, and infringing ZeniMax copyrights and trademarks. ZeniMax is also asserting claims for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and unfair competition against the defendants. The suit was filed in federal court in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

The suit arises from the defendants' unlawful exploitation of intellectual property, including trade secrets, copyrighted computer code, and technical know-how relating to virtual reality technology that was developed by ZeniMax after years of research and investment. ZeniMax provided this valuable intellectual property to defendants under a binding Non-Disclosure Agreement that specifies such intellectual property is owned exclusively by ZeniMax and cannot be used, disclosed, or transferred to third parties without ZeniMax's approval. ZeniMax's intellectual property has provided the fundamental technology driving the Oculus Rift since its inception. Nevertheless, the defendants refused all requests from ZeniMax for reasonable compensation and continue to use ZeniMax's intellectual property without authorization.

All efforts by ZeniMax to resolve this matter amicably have been unsuccessful. Oculus has recently issued a public statement remarkably claiming that "ZeniMax has never contributed IP or technology to Oculus." Meanwhile, Luckey has held himself out to the public as the visionary developer of virtual reality technology, when in fact the key technology Luckey used to establish Oculus was developed by ZeniMax.

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

"ZeniMax and id Software take their intellectual property rights seriously," said P. Anthony Sammi, a Partner of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP which represents ZeniMax and id in this matter. "We now look to the federal courts and will pursue all appropriate measures available under the law to rectify defendants' egregious conduct," he added.


UPDATE (4:16pm): When reached by Kotaku, Oculus sent over their own statement:

"The lawsuit filed by ZeniMax has no merit whatsoever. As we have previously said, ZeniMax did not contribute to any Oculus technology. Oculus will defend these claims vigorously."


UPDATE (7:55pm): Via Gamasutra, here's the entire lawsuit:

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Adam Stacey

Obviously, we don't know the facts here. But a couple of things jump out at me:

1) Timing - The Oculus Rift has been in development for some time. Why sue now? Any possibility it could be linked to the fact that they were just purchased by Facebook?

2) Zenimax is based in Maryland. Oculus VR is based in California. Facebook is based in California. This lawsuit has been filed in Texas, which happens to be where an awful lot of patent troll lawsuits and other nebulous IP infringement cases have been filed.