One of the stranger news stories to hit the video games industry over the past week concerns ZeniMax Media (possibly best known as the parent company of Bethesda) threatening Oculus VR with legal action over its virtual reality technology. The gist of the ZeniMax claim is that John Carmack, the CTO of Oculus, helped develop some important aspects of the Oculus Rift while still at ZeniMax, thus making his work belong to his former employer.
Ironically, Carmack supposedly left to work solely for Oculus because ZeniMax wasn’t that interested in VR. And with Facebook now in the picture thanks to its deal to acquire Oculus, it adds an extra layer of intrigue to the initial accusation.
I’ll leave it to the legal experts to sort out that part of this whole affair, but Oculus went public yesterday with a denial that was provided to various media outlets including Gamesided.
The full statement follows:
"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 has expressed similar sentiments via Twitter. So while we could have IP theft, a case of corporate-level sour grapes, or much ado about nothing, the people at the center of the initial claim are maintaining their innocence in no uncertain terms, and the burden of proof is going to fall on ZeniMax to convince people that Carmack did something wrong.