Report: Elder Scrolls parent company seeking compensation for Oculus Rift headset, Oculus calls claims "ridiculous"

[UPDATE 2] John Carmack says, "No work I have ever done has been patented. ZeniMax owns the code that I wrote, but they don't own VR. Oculus uses zero lines of code that I wrote while under contract to ZeniMax."

[UPDATE 2] John Carmack has commented on the story, saying on Twitter: "No work I have ever done has been patented. Zenimax owns the code that I wrote, but they don't own VR. Oculus uses zero lines of code that I wrote while under contract to Zenimax."

[UPDATE] Following the publication of this story, a ZeniMax representative provided a detailed statement on today's Wall Street Journal report. You can read their statement in full below.

"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 original story is below.

A new report today from The Wall Street Journal outlines some controversy over Facebook's still-pending (but approved) purchase of Oculus VR, maker of the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. According to documents obtained by the news publication, Fallout and Elder Scrolls parent company ZeniMax Media is claiming rights to the intellectual property that powers the Oculus Rift headset.

According to the report, ZeniMax lawyers have sent multiple letters to Oculus and Facebook, claiming former id Software (owned by ZeniMax) designer John Carmack, who joined Oculus last summer, "improperly took ZeniMax's intellectual property with him to Oculus." This technology, ZeniMax says, helped Oculus VR grow from a fledgling startup to a Silicon Valley darling in under two years.

"It's unfortunate, but when there's this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims," an Oculus representative told The Wall Street Journal. "We intend to vigorously defend Oculus and its investors to the fullest extent."

The letters were sent following Facebook's surprise announcement last month that it would acquire Oculus VR in a massive deal worth $2 billion. Leslie Moonves, CEO of GameSpot parent company CBS Corp., is a member of the ZeniMax board of directors.

For its part, a ZeniMax representative said: "ZeniMax believes it is necessary to address these matters now and will take the necessary action to protect its interests." The company's letters to Oculus represented a "formal notice of its legal rights," according to the report. Sources close to ZeniMax said the company is seeking compensation.

The Wall Street Journal points out that it is unknown if Facebook knew before acquiring Oculus VR that ZeniMax was seeking compensation for the technology behind the Oculus Rift headset.

ZeniMax's dispute with Oculus dates back to early 2012, when Carmack reportedly contacted Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey. At this time, Luckey was experimenting with virtual reality headsets with a research group at the University of Southern California. Luckey, now 21, reportedly sent a prototype to Carmack.

Later that year at a "Los Angeles gaming convention," Carmack showed off a modified headset, the same headset that ZeniMax says was "the template for Oculus' Rift headset." The Wall Street Journal references an unspecified YouTube video where Carmack shows off this headset. Though it's not clear which video specifically they mean, Carmack demonstrated a virtual reality headset to numerous publications, including GameSpot sister site Giant Bomb, during E3 2012.

In this video, Carmack says he introduced new software to help the headset become a workable product. It appears it is this software that ZeniMax now claims ownership of. Luckey founded Oculus VR around the same time.

Finally, The Wall Street Journal says ZeniMax began seeking compensation for this intellectual property in August 2012, according to sources. Negotiations were reportedly held--on and off--for a period of about six months, and Oculus apparently even offered ZeniMax a "small equity stake." However, no deal was ever reached, sources said.

Carmack joined Oculus VR last summer, and five other ZeniMax employees followed, the report goes on. And just last week, ZeniMax penned a letter to Oculus VR's lawyers and Facebook's general counsel, saying: "It was only through the concerted efforts of Mr. Carmack, using technology developed over many years at, and owned by, ZeniMax, that Mr. Luckey was able to transform his garage-based pipe dream into a working reality," according to The Wall Street Journal.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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Discussion

264 comments
trust2112
trust2112

Actually, if you look at colleges, they do the same too. It's intellectual slavery. Thinking because someone is in your service, that anything they do, you own. If Bill Gates finished school, would the college own Microsoft? Would Harvard own Facebook if Zuckerburg graduated? It's our country, we need to take it back.

voreo
voreo

They just want to get money from them actually being successful. Unlike ESO

Hurvl
Hurvl

"Oculus uses zero lines of code that I wrote while under contract to ZeniMax" That little claim, if true (i.e. supported by evidence to be true), completely nullifies Zenimax's entire case. It's perfectly reasonable that anything you do while in a company is that company's property, but if you take lessons/skills earned and puts them to use in another company - without replicating any of your previous work - then the previous company has no legal reasons to be upset.

daikkenaurora12
daikkenaurora12

They didnt use the same code... just a very similar one.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Good luck proving it used zero lines of his code in any build in the previous 3 years, Oculus.  We all know that's likely not true.

BrassBullet
BrassBullet

The reason Carmack left Id is that Zenimax didn't want to do VR. I hope a counter suit leaves Carmack with enough dough to wrest back Id from its current overlords.

If it had won a huge NASA contract, would Zenimax claim ownership of Armadillo as well? Zenimax missed the boat on this one. They had a chance to be a part of the revolution but were too blind to see.

Slyster1181
Slyster1181

Zenimax tried to settle this for over a year probably close to 2 years. They are in their every right to do this.


1. He worked on VR while at Zenimax.


2. His contract stated that he could not sell his work to a 3rd party ( he did )


3. He used code he wrote while at Zenimax to use on Occulus.


Cut and dry , slam dunk.. Whatever you want to call it.

GIF
GIF

Doesn't Zenimax have enough money to try and file a frivolous lawsuit that will show them looking like the villain in the end?

iMpLuX
iMpLuX

Bethesda's only doing this now that OR is owned by Facebook. Bethesda's hoping Facebook will settle out of court since Bethesda needs a jolt of income after ESO isn't the end-all be-all rabid fan eating MMO Bethesda thought they had on their hands.


Something tells me more ppl are still playing FFXIV over ESO.

Serpent17
Serpent17

This is absolutely ridiculous! First these "ZeniMax" shitheads tried to sue "Mojang" for word(!) "Scrolls" now they are trying to claim the code (and a whole tech!) they are not invested a penny in! This is f-king bullshit!

PS. This is a very good example of how this lawyers/copyright-fags destroying the progress!

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

The work he (carmack) did at zenimax and with that team was commissioned for another project, after it ended or dissolved or moved on as the full article is discussed better on gamesindustryinternational.com, Carmack went on to work on OR, as he said, he never used any line of code from the old project. That is like working on one house and then after going to another job redesigning another, the man has to have the ability to continue work in the same field, if that was so then any one who makes games for one company would never be allowed to take those learned skills and make a game at another. Also to clarify: after the rest of the team joined Carmack who also worked with him at Zenimax, they reached out to Zenimax to include them on OR develop, (probably to use and or not lose advancement made there). That is why carmack has been so vocal, so open, and so front forward with the press and the world when it comes to his work with OR. 

If a man was planning to use code that was developed for or by another company would he be in the press or one of the main faces of OR for all of these months? If I am not mistaken wasn't there a article here in gamespot after Carmack joined OR development, where he said he looks forward to continuing his work in VR and how excited he is about the tech going forward -  Here is the article 

http://www.gamespot.com/articles/john-carmack-takes-full-time-job-at-oculus-rift-developer/1100-6412625/

Now does that sound like a person who would steal code or hell even need to steal code from anywhere else. That is what this man has done his whole life is program the games we love so much. And again Zenimax only owns the code that was developed while that team was working with him there, does that mean Zenimax owns ever code that will ever be written for VR in the future - of course not. That be like saying this code that allows a character to jump is now proprietary and any future jumping characters is ours. 

Like the technology with force feedback or 'rumble' it was very easy to sue a company for tons of money, even knowing the litigation would go no where the cost and hold up of those lawsuits would force settlements and be a windfall for no work. Forcefeedback was kinda developed for disabled people where chairs, doors, trays, etc could vibrate if needed for safety. After sony, nintendo, microsoft added rumbling motors to their controllers, a law firm bought that old company and sued the gaming companies for rights to every controller made - knowing it would never hold up in court, but that delay, and cost of litigation was so high the game companies would settle, and that is just what happened. 

I love our world where a person can create something and make money for it, but I hate our world where a company can sue anyone who makes anything resembling a singing mouse with large round ears more then 100+ years later. Just another frivolous lawsuit among thousands more, I wonder if Zenimax would have bothered with this suit if facebook would not have bought into them. I personally hate that OR joined FB, but that has nothing to do with such an incredibly lame lawsuit that will only add cost to VR when consumers buy it. 

Lambchopzin
Lambchopzin

Suddenly Occulus getting acquired by FB sounds like a good thing since it's probably the only way they'd be able to afford the legal fees that are going to come about as a result of this dispute. They wouldn't have the money to combat Zenimax's team of lawyers without the backing of a larger corporation.


My personal, entirely unprofessional opinion is that Zenimax is probably full of shit. Like I said, fortunately for Occulus being under the wing of Facebook actually gives them an advantage here I think. My guess is that Facebook has a lot more money to throw at lawyers then either Zenimax or Occulus on their own do.

kujel
kujel

I feel Carmack is too desperate to see VR not crash and burn yet again.

olddadgamer
olddadgamer

Ok, I'm a lawyer.  Here's a bit of free advice to Zenimax, Carmack, and whoever else that you should have gotten from the lawyers that you are, no doubt, paying a fortune to:  


Stop talking!  Now! Do not speak to anyone about this!  


Jeez, that's rule number one.  Who's advising these guys?

Choad-Warrior
Choad-Warrior

This reminds me of watching Social Network. And Facebook is even involved.

"I didn't use any of their code, I promise. I didn't use anything! Look a guy who builds a nice chair doesn't owe money to everyone who has ever built a chair, okay? "

SpLiTMaN
SpLiTMaN

Fucking lol even zenimax got pissed at that facemove...haha and shit there dumb tho.

deg22
deg22

those folks first do a kickstarter and go around begging at other companies to help them. Companies like zenimax obviously did and then, as soon as it starts to gain traction, they sold it all to facebook and ran away with the cash. 

If I invested time/money in it I would be as pissed off as zenimax is right now. Those founders are opportunist dickheads. 

Karchy
Karchy

LOL 

1. Asking for money on kickstarter like beggars

2. getting sued for millions short time later


Only in murica

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

That is fair enough then I suppose, if it is true.

Intellectual property rights only get you so far and they are weak at best because how do you know where an idea has come from truely? Once an idea is "out there" in the world, it is very hard to keep ownership of.

If this guy gave them the idea and then they took it and made it into something new, then the original claimant for intellectual property is going to lose.

If his idea is structural to the technology though and is still there only in a different form Oculus might be in trouble. Depends how the court see it I suppose.

Sl4cka
Sl4cka

@Slyster1181"3. He used code he wrote while at Zenimax to use on Occulus."

Oh, you were there. Are you going to be giving evidence about that in court then?

trust2112
trust2112

@iMpLuX  And SWTOR, too. I know a lot of us did ESO beta, and were not impressed. As most of us are still there.

jeffgost
jeffgost

@iMpLuX it's not Bethesda, it's Zenimax. Bethesda is just a pawn like ID....Zeni owns Beth.

Judeuduarte
Judeuduarte

@iMpLuX  Did you even read the article? If you did you should know this began way before facebook entered the picture

Kiaininja
Kiaininja

@jenovaschilld  Of course FB buyout has to do with this lawsuit. According to this line in Zenimax statement "ZeniMax’s technology may not be licensed, transferred, or sold without ZeniMax Media’s approval." it means that they probably didn't see it as a problem when the code was used to help develop Oculus but not to sell it as part of the engine without their permission.

kgbinusa
kgbinusa

@Lambchopzin  Suddenly Occulus will get sued, because they are now part of a giant corp, and whoever is successfull in suing them, will gain a lot more.

feathers632
feathers632

@kujel  What you feel is totally irrelevant.  It has no basis on reality... it is your feeling and feelings are prone to error because so often they lack logic.  Your statement is nonsensical.  "VR not crash and burn yet again"?  This is a common assertion made by people who don't understand HMD tech.  It failed to reach consumers in a big way back in the 90's because it was grossly overpriced and we didn't have fast HD displays.  Head tracking was also slow and imprecise.  Even so HMD VR didn't go away.  It just  stayed in the professionals sector where it was used by the military, Nasa and other professional sectors.  HMD tech is the closest thing we will get to a holodeck anytime soon.  It presents you with life-size 3d imagery and gives you natural head tracking (and upper body).  I'm guessing you also thing a HMD is just a TV strapped to your head (another common assertion by technophobes and those who haven't done any research).  


As much as you may hate the idea... this tech is finally reaching the consumer at an affordable price and it actually is the biggest revolution gaming has seen since the introduction of dedicated 3d graphics cards.


So let's ask this question.... do I want to sit and play games on a 2d, small window and use a mouse or thumbstick to look around?  Or do I want to be dropped into the game-world with everything represented true-to-life scale in 3d?  The former represents old technology that severely compromises on realism.  The latter represents a natural evolution of tech and a very efficient way to drop someone into a computer generated world.  

olddadgamer
olddadgamer

@WolfgarTheQuiet Considering your user name, that comment already is the front runner for the irony of the day winner!

DawnBlue
DawnBlue

@SpLiTMaN  "The Wall Street Journal points out that it is unknown if Facebook knew before acquiring Oculus VR that ZeniMax was seeking compensation for the technology behind the Oculus Rift headset.


ZeniMax's dispute with Oculus dates back to early 2012, when Carmack reportedly contacted Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey."

Kiaininja
Kiaininja

@Arcturuss  If you were a real programmer you would know that coding isn't as cut and dry as you're defining it. There's a reason why we pay a license fees to use software engines. We don't know enough details of evidence to make a conclusion if Carmack used snippets of ZeniMax's code into Oculus or not.

eddieham13
eddieham13

@deg22 Kickstarter is not investing. It's donating. Learn the difference.

abram730
abram730

@deg22 So you Agree that John Carmack is the property of Zenimax?  F-U!!!

Arcturuss
Arcturuss

@Dannystaples14  What they are basically saying is that Carmack isn't allowed to use any skills he may have aquired while working for them,  that is some grade A bullshit.

yngsten
yngsten

@Sl4cka @Slyster1181  

Who knows what is what, if it turns out that his work at Zenimax at any way led to the creation of Oculus, then of course Zenimax want in on a project their employee worked on while on their paycheck. I don't think they would go to court without a case, well see...

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

@Kiaininja @jenovaschilld  Oh one more thing, OC was a startup on crowdfunding as everyone knows, Zenimax owns nothing in relation to any developed tech at OC, so the sale of OC to facebook, still means Zenimax still owns nothing of OC or requires nothing of their permission. Now if carmack - has used the developed coding over at ID software owned by Zenimax - then yes they can litigate for that coding only - not the tech or sale, or rest of engine developed by OC before or after carmack joined last summer. But I highly doubt a man - CArmack- who has written engines and code for years prolifically I might add, would have to use an code engine from a past project little related to OC VR headsets. 

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

@Kiaininja @jenovaschilld  OMG- again in both of the news articles - Carmack used no coding developed under Zenimax which does not own tech related to VR outside their company. Zenimax approval does not mean shit, as it has no relation to programming done by Carmack later on. And as carmack has been one of the most influential and prolific engine writers in gaming, I doubt he would ever need to use other companies IP as he writes most it. 

His skills - say fixing a car at goodyear does not mean over at jiffy lube any skills he has belongs to goodyear. An engineer can build a sewage system under contract to fix a problem, but cannot take those plans to another city and use them there as it was commissioned for the first city, but that does not mean that engineer cannot ever work on another sewage project or redesign a new one. 

Zenimax does not own VR tech, hell OR, FB, and carmack does not own VR, that would be like owning a smell or a taste. Zenimax only owns the coding that was developed for them by carmack and his team under that commission for that project, as carmack has freq interviewed now for months - he has used no coding that was used under Zenimax. If carmack did write all new coding for OR headset (which by the way very different from what he did over at zenimax and ID software), then nothing zenimax owns helped develop OR tech. 

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

@abram730 @deg22  The motherfucking code is ok, damn dumbfuckery here. Carmack, there was a time when i respected him for great games. Sold himself to FB.

Scarshi
Scarshi

@feathers632 @Scarshi I have a wife and kids, a mortgage and a sweet custom motorcycle that make my life awesome. A custom built PC and my 360 been gathering dust since Red Dead.

You really need to calm the fuck down. Take a deep breath, dude.

feathers632
feathers632

@ScarshiI must have a look see what you actually contribute to games pot.  OK I had a look.  As I thought.  You ain't bringing anything of any value to games pot apart from your love of final fantasy.  As a challenge... see if you can get enough money from your parents to build your first PC.  You can sell your eggbox 360 to help offset the cost.  Then learn to overclock and play games other than final fantasy.

feathers632
feathers632

@Scarshi your life ain't worth much at the moment is it?  I must have a look see what you actually contribute to games pot.

feathers632
feathers632

@Scarshi  You ain't even making sense cockhead.  If you weren't listening you wooden be replying to my posts would you.  So stop talking bollocks.

feathers632
feathers632

@Scarshi  And this is your sum contribution to gamespot which kind of makes your life an utter waste of time.  :)

eddieham13
eddieham13

@deg22 @eddieham13 "If I invested time/money.." That's what you said. It's right there.

You implied that people invested in oculus when they used kickstarter. Zenimax didn't invest into Oculus Rift, they are implying that a guy who wrote code for oculus was working for Zenimax and therefore the code belonged to Zenimax. This is apparently not the case as the guy wasn't working for Zenimax during the time he wrote the code.

LoganDaDestroya
LoganDaDestroya

@WolfgarTheQuiet To be fair, Carmack wasn't directly involved with the deal according to an earlier article (If my memory serves me right).


This whole situation is messed up, the amount of power these companies have over someone's "skills" is ludicrous.