'Oculus Rift' ZeniMax Lawsuit Update: Carmack Fires Back Legal Response Over Ownership Claims, Murky Future For VR Headset

By Steve Buja , Updated Jun 27, 2014 03:51 PM EDT
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The ongoing legal battle between John Carmack, Palmer Luckey, the inventor of the Oculus Rift, and ZeniMax continued today when Carmack and his lawyers submitted their defense against Zenimax's formal Complaint, which claims ownership over the technology.

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With every new, great idea, a battle between creators is bound to ensue. Few things are developed in a vacuum, especially advanced technological gadgets like the Oculus Rift, that could be a game changer not only for an industry, but society as well. Such an idea is worth a whole lot of money.

In the statement, found in its entirety here, Carmack and his defense team lay out a very thorough timeline of events, beginning with Palmer Luckey's early days tweaking the Rift to the E3 demonstrations to its eventual sale to Facebook. At the time of the Rift's development, Carmack was working for Zenimax, but had not made contact with Luckey until after many public demonstrations of the technology.

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The defense takes issue over and over again at Zenimax's involvement, stating "ZeniMax never claimed ownership rights over theRift based on any supposed contribution to any technology in the Rift, because ZeniMax knew it had made none." further stating, Prior to the Facebook acquisition, ZeniMax appeared to have lost whatever interest it had in VR. It even instructed Carmack to stop developing virtual reality videogames for the Rift or any other VR HMD. Only after the Facebook acquisition announcement did ZeniMax suddenly begin asserting supposed ownership rights over Oculus VR's technology."

What it comes down to is money. Zenimax had passed on the technology but when Facebook snatched it up $400 million cash and an additional $1.2 BILLION in FB stock, Zeni got greedy, according to the Oculus VR team. Imagine the Social Network-esque movie this could make.

Zenimax had leveled some of its own complaints against Carmack and Oculus, asking for "full and fair compensation for Defendant's unlawful use of its intellectual property." Oculus VR denies that "Zenimax is entitled to any relief."

This could get long and ugly and will probably be dragged out in trial for years. Both sides have claims, and it will be up to the court to ultimately decide. The Supreme Court is delegating on several cases at the moment, including those involving software patents, which were struck down in specific instances last week. The wording is vague that who knows if the Oculus Rift technology may be swept under, as well.

I speak for all gamers when I say that, whatever the outcome, I hope it does not delay the Oculus Rift or worse, kill it completely. So few game changing technologies come around that I'd hate to see this one's wings get clipped before it ever learns how to fly.

Watch Palmer talk about the future of gaming in the Oculus Kickstarter video:

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