The Wall Street Journal has obtained correspondence between ZeniMax and Oculus, in which the former states that technology developed at ZeniMax has been used in an unauthorised manner by the VR company. Unfortunately you need a log-in for the Wall Street Journal, so here’s an Engadget link that contains the same details.
In short, it seems as if ZeniMax’s crack team of lawyers (ever alert and ready to respond,) is suggesting that technology developed by John Carmack while he was a ZeniMax employee was used by Oculus in its development of the Rift VR device. ZeniMax is operating on the legal basis that anything done by Carmack while he was an employee of theirs is owned by ZeniMax.
Here’s the statement ZeniMax has been providing to the press:
ZeniMax confirms it recently sent formal notice of its legal rights to Oculus concerning its ownership of key technology used by Oculus to develop and market the Oculus Rift. ZeniMax’s technology may not be licensed, transferred or sold without ZeniMax Media’s approval. 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.
The proprietary technology and know-how Mr. Carmack developed when he was a ZeniMax employee, and used by Oculus, are owned by ZeniMax. Well before the Facebook transaction was announced, Mr. Luckey acknowledged in writing ZeniMax’s legal ownership of this intellectual property. It was further agreed that Mr. Luckey would not disclose this technology to third persons without approval. Oculus has used and exploited ZeniMax’s technology and intellectual property without authorization, compensation or credit to ZeniMax. ZeniMax and Oculus previously attempted to reach an agreement whereby ZeniMax would be compensated for its intellectual property through equity ownership in Oculus but were unable to reach a satisfactory resolution. ZeniMax believes it is necessary to address these matters now and will take the necessary action to protect its interests.
Oculus, of course, has something to say too:
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.
The “transaction” they’re talking about is the recent purchase of Oculus by Facebook for a reported $2 billion USD.
Right now no formal legal proceedings have been initiated, but to my entirely untrained eye it looks like ZeniMax’s legal team is angling for some sort of monetary settlement to prevent that outcome.