The ZeniMax Media v. Oculus VR Trial Begins, Oculus Issues Statement (Update)

by David Jagneaux • January 9th, 2017

Update: An Oculus spokesperson reached out to us after this story was published to issue an official statement: “We’re eager to present our case in court. Oculus and its founders have invested a wealth of time and money in VR because we believe it can fundamentally transform the way people interact and communicate. We’re disappointed that another company is using wasteful litigation to attempt to take credit for technology that it did not have the vision, expertise, or patience to build.”

We will continue to provide updates as they are received.

Original: ZeniMax Media v. Oculus VR is one of the first major legal disputes to happen in our young new industry. Following the massive Consumer Electronics Shows (CES) in Las Vegas, NV, the spotlight now turns to the Lone Star State as the court trial is set to start today, Monday, January 9th 2017, in Dallas, TX, according to Bloomberg.

In our previous report of the lawsuit, we explained that ZeniMax alleges the Rift was created with stolen technology sourced from ZeniMax employees. You might remember that, quite famously, John Carmack joined the Oculus team as CTO in 2013. Carmack is the co-founder of id Software, a company acquired by ZeniMax Media in 2009. His relationship with the VR company (namely Palmer Luckey) and the creation of the Oculus Rift is at the heart of the allegations.

Without help from ZeniMax employees, the company states that “there would not have been a viable Rift product.”

The actual lawsuit itself was first filed by ZeniMax in 2014, shortly after Facebook acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion. ZeniMax claims that Carmack was still a ZeniMax Media employee while he was closely involved with the creation of the VR company’s flagship headset, the Oculus Rift.

In a previous statement, an Oculus representative explained that “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 Rift released last year in March at a price point of $599, with the $199 Touch controllers releasing last month in December. In the lawsuit, ZeniMax is seeking $2 billion in damages, which just so happens to be roughly the same price Facebook paid for the VR startup almost 3 years ago.

ZeniMax’s lawyer is Tony Sammi and the lead attorney for Oculus and Facebook is Beth Wilkinson. Live witnesses, including Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg are expected to be called in the trial, according to Sammi.

The trial is expected to last approximately three weeks and is officially called ZeniMax Media Inc. v. Oculus VR Inc., 3:14-cv-01849, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).

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  • Allan

    Unsure of the merits of this case. Zenimax is one of those companies that sues everybody for everything.

  • blueredgreenyellow

    This is still really confusing. Is it something like John Carmack use Zenimax resorses to work on the rift. Like how anything make on a company computer is that companys proporty. I’ve been hearing about this case for over a year and I still dont understand whats going on.

    • I think its more than just using a company computer. I think what Zenimax are saying is that part of what they paid Carmack to do was investigate VR and that he used Palmer as a kind of conduit to steal their IP.
      This is a very important case and its vital that the court reaches the right decision. There isn’t enough info in the public domain for us to make a judgement.

  • Xodroc

    I wonder how many people also believe Fallout was created by ZeniMax.

    If I recall correctly the Kickstarter for Oculus was already going before Carmack even joined. Having John Carmack and other veterans leave their old companies to join Oculus was just gravy. Who actually believes Carmack would abandon ID Software if ZeniMax was seriously developing meaningful VR. They should have had their own prototype out there by now with or without him.

    Before he left he was experimenting with VR support in Doom 3 and there were plans for an official VR Patch that never came.

    ZeniMax has pretty much become just another corporation that buys up smaller companies, while resashing the same engine and gameplay mechanics in their own games repeatedly. Considering ID Software was still a recent acquisition I could certainly believe that Carmack was used to having the freedom to work on side projects without a Corporate OverLord claiming him as their personal property.

    Either way, if this results in a screw over to consumers and developers; then I hope for a class action suit against either ZeniMax or Facebook.