ZeniMax Accuses Oculus’s John Carmack of Being a Thief, Palmer Luckey of Being a Fraud
ZeniMax’s lawsuit against Oculus VR took a turn for the nastier last week. An updated filing by ZeniMax claims that the development of the Oculus Rift VR headset is a result of former id Software employee and current Oculus CTO John Carmack stealing thousands of documents and using them in developing the Rift. Their suit also now alleges that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey isn’t capable of developing VR technology himself.
ZeniMax is the parent company of Bethesda Games and includes the like of Bethesda Softworks, Arkane Studios and id Software under its corporate umbrella. John Carmack is one of the founders of id and was contracted to id/ZeniMax before joining Oculus.
The amended suit now states that Carmack “copied thousands of documents from a computer at ZeniMax to a USB storage device. He never returned those files or all copies of them after his employment with ZeniMax was terminated. In addition, after Carmack’s employment with ZeniMax was terminated, he returned to ZeniMax’s premises to take a customized tool for developing VR Technology belonging to ZeniMax that itself is part of ZeniMax’s VR technology.”
With reference to Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, the suit now states that “Luckey lacked the training, expertise, resources, or know-how to create commercially viable VR technology, his computer programming skills were rudimentary, and he relied on ZeniMax’s computer program code and games to demonstrate the prototype Rift.” They also accuse Oculus of lying about its origins to cover-up the use of stolen code for the Rift saying, “Oculus… disseminated to the press the false and fanciful story that Luckey was the brilliant inventor of VR technology who had developed that technology in his parents’ garage. In fact, that story was utterly and completely false.”
Oculus responded in a statement to press saying, “This complaint filed by ZeniMax is one-sided and conveys only ZeniMax’s interpretation of the story. We continue to believe this case has no merit, and we will address all of ZeniMax’s allegations in court.”
The acquisition of Oculus by Facebook in 2014 has also been called into question as part of this amended filing. ZeniMax says that Facebook was aware of their lawsuit (the suit was filed on May 21, 2014, while the acquisition by Facebook was agreed upon exactly two months later). ZeniMax also mentions an NDA between Palmer Luckey and ZeniMax that was violated as part of the Facebook acquisition. That part isn’t being reported as clearly so I’m not sure if this is a prelude to including Facebook as a defendant in the suit or setting up Facebook for legal action against Oculus and its executives.
Armchair lawyers are suggesting that the case could come down to the actual code used for the Rift. If it’s a straight copy-and-paste job, it will be easy to prove that Carmack stole ZeniMax IP for use on the Rift. If Carmack used ideas and techniques developed while with ZeniMax but didn’t reuse any code, it could be a much harder case for ZeniMax to prove. Of course, the case hinges on the allegedly stolen documents being used to develop the Rift so proving the theft would be only half the battle.
Of course, all this has to be proven in a court of law. ZeniMax is requesting a trial by jury should this case make it to court. Civil court proceedings have a lower burden of proof than a criminal court. Generally speaking, finding in favour of a plaintiff is considered indicative of their complaint being more likely than not that it’s true. Still, if this goes to court, we’re years away from a resolution.
Source: Game Informer