Palmer Luckey Answers Questions In ZeniMax Court Case

by Jamie Feltham • January 18th, 2017

Publicly, Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey has been missing in action since the revelation that he supported a political propaganda campaign back in September 2016. This week, however, he’s unavoidably stepped back into the spotlight as he answered questions in the ongoing Oculus-ZeniMax legal battle.

Yesterday was an eventful day for the case, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg answering questions to defend his VR subsidiary against allegations that it had stolen ZeniMax technology in the creation of the Rift. Luckey, 24, followed late in the day and plays a crucial part in the trial given his work with John Carmack, the Oculus CTO accused of stealing tech from ZeniMax when he worked at subsidiary id Software.

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Luckey was wearing a blue suit and red tie in the court room, a rare sight for the engineer, who usually sports a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and flip flops. His work with Carmack was the basis for much of the questioning, though his time started out talking about Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014, which he said he possibly stands to make $100’s of millions from in the years ahead. Luckey estimated to have made $50 million working with the company thus far.

Turning the conversation to Carmack, Luckey recited his version of history that will be familiar to those that have studied the story as it has been told so far. He said he sent the developer a headset in 2012. That headset became central to the discussion. In terms of what Carmack actually contributed to the Rift, Luckey was asked if the developer had created the Rift’s fisheye distortion system used to create a panoramic image that seems to wrap around the user inside the headset.

“I guess what he did is ‘a’ solution rather than ‘the’ solution,” he said.

Carmack, at the time still working at Doom developer id, showed off an early prototype of what would become the Rift at E3 in 2012. The rough prototype was showing id’s Doom 3: BFG Edition running in VR. Luckey noted that he wasn’t at the event himself, but said a demo would not have been possible without Carmack’s software. Asked if this was a breakthrough moment for the company, he replied: “I guess you could call it a breakthrough moment in awareness.”

It’s worth noting that ZeniMax’s complaint filed against Oculus last year questions Luckey’s claims. The document alleges that, at CES 2013, 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.” ZeniMax alleges this story is “utterly and completely false”, and that Luckey lacked “training, expertise, resources, or know-how to create commercially viable VR technology.” Later, it states that Luckey made “no substantial contribution” to the creation of the Rift.

Finally, Luckey said he took NDAs “very seriously”. Luckey himself is facing legal action after an alleged breach of contract with another company, Total Recall. While his role at Oculus currently isn’t clear, the company has said that it will reveal his position soon.

Former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe is still expected to take the stand at the case this week.

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What's your reaction?
  • OkinKun

    So Zeni’s claim here probably comes down to a VERY basic lens-warping script that Carmack tried at the time.. which wasn’t even used again beyond that first taped-prototype.. But Zenimax somehow thinks, that because carmack was employed by them at the time, that gives them the right to make these claims. What nonsense.
    They could have used any number of alternative methods, and that prototype, technology-wise, was relatively inconsequential to the grand scheme of Oculus and their future prototypes. It was just a proof of concept of this sort of HMD configuration, with some off-the-shelf stuff quickly taped together to see if it worked.

    • Tong Gorokh

      he steal, he admit it he tooks bunch of files with code, that was illegal and how he use it after, reengineering code or something else does not matter

      • Get Schwifty!

        It does matter – it’s all about degree and what was in use. By your account if he stole a box of pens, never mind Oculus has pens, he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law because he used a pen from Zenimax…. this it not how the legal system works in the U.S….

        • Tong Gorokh

          no, he should be prosecuted for stealing and breaking NDA that was he confess on witness stand this it how the legal system works in the U.S.

          • JSM21

            I wasn’t aware he admitted to actually taking anything that wasn’t his.

          • Get Schwifty!

            Don’t confuse the issue with facts 😉

          • Get Schwifty!

            That remains to be seen…. so far there doesn’t appear to be a clear violation of direct intended theft and breaking NDA, at least not at the level that warrants pulling out all the stops…. that is how it works in the U.S. 😉

          • Tong Gorokh

            when you take with your 1000 files of code that not belong to you that stealing, he trying convince that he did not used that code later, but we all know what he did, he took code and tried to rewrite it, read his tweater right after stealing with all questions about it.

          • T Sheehan

            Sounds like you wouldn’t agree with the 13th Amendment of the Constitution. You know, the SLAVERY one. Because I willingly work for you from 9 to 5 does not give you ownership over my every waking thought, document, or acheivement. That might work in your country, but not here, no matter how loose IP infringement laws have gotten.

    • Nicholas

      Maybe you haven’t worked for a major tech company recently? Typically the contract will state that anything you develop (even at home in your own time with your own equipment) whilst in their employ belongs to them, regardless of what it is.

      • OkinKun

        That’s not really what happened in this case, and I don’t think they’re trying to claim ownership of anything he touched either. They seem to have much more specific claims.

    • Buddydudeguy

      ” o Zeni’s claim here probably comes down to a VERY basic lens-warping script that Carmack tried at the time.. which wasn’t even used again beyond that first taped-prototype.. But Zenimax somehow thinks, that because carmack was employed by them at the time, that gives them the right to make these claims. What nonsense.”

      Exactly! I’ve been trolled repeatedly on the comments section here for laughing about this. Their case is a joooooke,

  • Daryle Henry

    Isn’t there proof of Luckey doing this stuff on the MTBS3D forums?

    • Arv

      Yup. He also worked at the USC on VR projects and got that job through the results of his previous VR experiments. He designed the FOV2Go headset whilst he worked there I think. If the vast majority of judges were more tech aware this never would have gone to court tbh. If I was working for ZeniMax I’d be VERY concerned about my emplyment prospects during these next few weeks – if they lose their loss isn’t going to come cheap and then you may see the prospect of Carmack, Luckey and Iribe suing them for defamation. If someone had announced to the world and his wife that I was a thief and were proven wrong I’d want some MAJOR compernsation.

      • Fundamentalist Daleks

        yeah just ask anyone at USC about his great work there. Oh wait, they’ll just tell you he stole Mark Bolas’ work and say what a brittle, difficult person he was.

        Your concern for ZeniMax employees is touching tho. I’m sure the Fallout/Skyrim people are reaaaally on their last legs.

        Carmack admitting he stole stuff isn’t going to play well. Facebook will settle in the end.

        • Bundy

          I doubt Zeni will get the whole 2 billion. I don’t think they have a claim over everything Oculus did. But in the end Zuckerberg will give them some millions in spare change he finds in his spare pocket.

        • Get Schwifty!

          Settling doesn’t mean fault though – often its just plain cheaper to pay the protection money up front to avoid the cost of having to prove you weren’t at fault. But I agree, I am fully expecting a settlement out of court. Would be hilarious though if Facebook/Oculus sued them….

        • You’d better ask Mark Bolas directly, you won’t get the same answer, he was the one suggesting Palmer to start Oculus.

          Palmer had already build his headset prototype before joining USC, that’s what got him the job.

  • Chester Chesterton

    Countdown until this article’s pic turns into a meme of Luckey smoking various paraphernalia or Sean Bean “One Doesn’t simply” throwbacks in t-minus 10-9-8…

    • Get Schwifty!

      Yeah that photo calls out for some brutal photoshoping doesn’t it? LOL!

  • CMcD

    Go watch the Facebook movie and then come back here and comment. Mark zuckerberg has been down this road before and had to settle with those twins who got a crazy amount of money because all they had to say was that their fingerprints were on Facebook SOMEWHERE. what is true and isn’t true (sorry to say this) DOESNT MATTER. This lawsuit is because of the huge buy in of $2 billion that Facebook put up. Any smart American company is going to spend money to have lawyers say that their fingerprints are on the oculus rift so they can get a big settlement, a settlement that Facebook can easily afford. And that’s pretty much it, everything else is lawyer noise.

  • DougP

    Luckey’s buddy Trump just weighed-in on this, it isn’t good – of Luckey/Zuck he said:
    “I like billionaires who DON’T get caught”

    • Get Schwifty!

      Sigh… Doug… really? A Trump stab in the middle of all this?

      • DougP

        Sense of humour?

        “Trump stab”
        Lighten-up, Zuck’s a billionaire, Luckey’s fond of bragging bout his money & near-billionaire status (nimblerichman “worth nearly billion”)…and please don’t tell me Trump’s not topical / worthy reference point for a joke – with his off-the-cuff tweets/comments.

        This isn’t about life&limb – it’s a lawsuit about the rich suing the rich over riches.

      • MikeVR

        What is interesting is seeing all these people who’d rather support his brother Robert Trump (one of ZeniMax’s Board of Directors) throughout all of this…