Oculus VR could face lawsuit from the former employer of CTO John Carmack

It looks like former id Software programmer John Carmack is the center of a new legal conflict between his old employer and his new one at Oculus VR. Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that ZeniMax Media claims in new legal letters that Carmack improperly took its IP when he joined Oculus VR as its Chief Technology Officer.

The report claims that the legal letters were sent to both Oculus VR and Facebook, which is in the middle of acquiring the company behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality device. ZeniMax, which bought id Software in 2009, claim that Carmack helped to develop the hardware and software for the helmet while he was still employed as the game developer's lead programmer.

Carmack left id, and ZeniMax, in December 2013 to join Oculus VR, and at the time he claimed that ZeniMax didn't want to support virtual reality technology with id's upcoming games such as the revival of Doom.  Now ZeniMax is seeking some kind of compensation for Carmack's efforts. In a statement, the company said, "ZeniMax believes it is necessary to address these matters now and will take the necessary action to protect its interests." In a statement of its own, Oculus VR said, "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."

Source: Wall Street Journal | Image via Oculus VR

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24 Comments

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I don't want to buy that oculus vr, because of Nintendo's old Virtual boy from 1990's. No thanks to that product, because it is very bad for their eyes.

Edited by gameboy1977, May 2 2014, 12:17am :

Sorry Zenimax, Carmack is Occulus and Occulus is Carmack.

If you think you deserve a piece of this pie, you should have funded him in the first place.

So I guess this now means Facebook will buy out Zenimax like a drop in the bucket to shut 'em up once and for all with this childish BS again.

Makes sense if you think about it.

Yea, I don't see Zenimax doing anything. Maybe if Oculus was still independent and it took off, they would still be dealing with a small company. But now that FB bought them, umm...good luck Zenimax dealing w/ a company that can buy you out 20x over.

Why does "Oculus Rift" sound so much like the title of a "Fast and the Furious" sequel title to me? Hmm, maybe it's just me. (Fast and the Furious: Oculus Rift)

If he actually did work on Oculus while working at id, then Zenimax might have some ground, depending on the terms of his employee agreement. Most companies have rules that you can't work on something outside work that competes in the same (or even similar) space as your in work job.

It's ludicrous that any company could claim the rights over something you do in your own time, contract or not. Respectable businesses do not conduct themselves in such a manner.

Not saying its great, but most companies have what is call a "moonlighting" policy. They may or may not allow certain outside work jobs, especially if they overlap with your current field of work. If you do a project or something that overlaps, they can claim ownership to it.

From the sounds of it, he may have even worked on this during work hours to pitch to execs. Anything he developed at id would be their property and cannot be taken to Oculus.

This only applies if Zenimax didn't know Carmack was working for Oculus until after the fact. The fact though, is they knew full well he was working for Oculus while still being employed at id, and allowed it. If they didn't want to 'allow' it, they would have told him before starting at Oculus that he would have to quit id.

greensabath said,
This only applies if Zenimax didn't know Carmack was working for Oculus until after the fact. The fact though, is they knew full well he was working for Oculus while still being employed at id, and allowed it. If they didn't want to 'allow' it, they would have told him before starting at Oculus that he would have to quit id.

Exactly. He was very public about his involvement. This is just Zenimax's ruthless pursuit of money.

theyarecomingforyou said,
It's ludicrous that any company could claim the rights over something you do in your own time, contract or not. Respectable businesses do not conduct themselves in such a manner.

Right. So if you worked fulltime for, say, Intel and in your own time you worked for AMD that would cause no problems whatsoever? How can you prove that you weren't taking information from Intel and passing it on to AMD?

Not saying that this is what happened here, but there are valid reasons why companies have those policies. Your employer trusts you to maintain company secrets while you work for them. If in your spare time you're working for a competitor, they don't know if they can trust you anymore.

His involvement with the Oculus Rift was incredibly public, therefore ZeniMax has no grounds to turn around now and claim ownership of his work. This is simply ruthless capitalism.

theyarecomingforyou said,
His involvement with the Oculus Rift was incredibly public, therefore ZeniMax has no grounds to turn around now and claim ownership of his work. This is simply ruthless capitalism.

I stated that "Not saying this is what happened here." Also just because his work was public has no bearing on his contract. Now I'll agree with you that if Zenimax had an issue they should have made it clear beforehand, not now after he left the company.

I was just stating why companies have such a clause in their contracts. There are legitimate reasons for, this doesn't seem like one of them though. If they were actively developing a VR headset, they have a ground to stand on. But they didn't want to support the technology, so they shouldn't have had any issues with him trying to work with Oculus.

theyarecomingforyou said,
The evil Zenimax Empire™ strikes again.

Sad isn't it? They were against the 3D technology in the first place, now Oculus will have enough capital (in the very near future from their soon to be facebook overlords) to bring it to global markets and Zenimax claim fowl play.