Oculus denies ZeniMax claim about virtual-reality trade secrets

In court filing, Oculus says ZeniMax "suddenly began asserting supposed ownership rights" over VR technology only after Facebook announced $2B Oculus buyout.


Oculus VR fired back its response to a lawsuit by ZeniMax on Wednesday, denying claims it was illegally aided in the creation of its popular virtual reality headset.

The lawsuit is a wrinkle ahead of Oculus' pending $2 billion acquisition by Facebook.

In a court filing, the company outlined how its founder, Palmer Luckey, initially developed virtual reality technology before he came into contact with John Carmack, a ZeniMax executive who is now a part of the Oculus team.

ZeniMax's suit against Oculus, filed last month, claims Carmack had illegally given Luckey the pioneering virtual reality technology that's since become part of the multibillion dollar Oculus, purchased by Facebook in March.

"Luckey has held himself out to the public as the visionary developer of virtual reality technology, when in fact the key technology Luckey used to establish Oculus was developed by ZeniMax," the company said in its original statement.

Oculus disagrees.

The original prototypes for what became the Oculus Rift headset extend back to 2010, the court filing said, adding pictures to further establish its case. In 2012, Luckey partnered with a filmmaker to create a virtual reality movie experience.

When Luckey began corresponding with Carmack, Oculus said, no ZeniMax technology was shared between them. Oculus said Carmack had his own specialized sensors he'd built for other virtual reality headsets, including a motion sensor that helps change the image on the screen to correspond with a user's movements in the real world.

This timetable of events directly contradicts ZeniMax's claims in its suit, Oculus said. "Both before and after his demonstrations at [the annual] E3 [gaming-industry conference], Carmack consistently credited Luckey with having created the Rift," the company said in its filing.

The only thing Carmack did give Luckey, Oculus added, was a file called a "VR Testbed," which was a small portion of a video game Carmack had adapted to test head mounted displays. Luckey was asked to sign an NDA for the file, but that was never finalized, Oculus said.

Oculus also said ZeniMax hasn't detailed any code that had been misappropriated. "Prior to the Facebook acquisition, ZeniMax appeared to have lost whatever interest it had in VR," Oculus said. "It even instructed Carmack to stop developing virtual reality video games for the Rift or any other VR."

"Only after the Facebook acquisition announcement did ZeniMax suddenly begin asserting supposed ownership rights over Oculus VR's technology," Oculus added.

About the author

Ian Sherr is an executive editor for the west coast at CNET News. He writes about social networking and manages coverage of video games, Internet giants, cybersecurity, the sharing economy, e-commerce and wearable tech. Previously, he wrote about Apple, the PC industry and video games at The Wall Street Journal. He's also written for Reuters and the Agence France-Presse, among others. He's a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, though he knows what real weather feels like too.


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