John Carmack and others at Oculus stole trade secrets from ZeniMax Media, or at least that’s what the umbrella company over Bethesda Softworks and Id Software wants to prove at trial.ZeniMax has been accusing Carmack and Oculus since 2014 of stealing the virtual reality technology, and now adds to the accusations intentional destruction of proof to cover up their wrongdoing. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Oculus will also be among the people who will have to respond to these accusations later this week.
According to ZeniMax, John Carmack, the father of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake, and also founder of Id Software, while still an employee at Id Software, “designed the specifications and functionality embodied in the Oculus Rift SDK and directed its development.” Carmack’s technology transformed Oculus founder Palmer Luckey’s early Rift prototype from a “primitive virtual reality headset” that was “little more than a display panel.” Carmack used “copyrighted computer code, trade secret information, and technical know-how” from his time at ZeniMax after he moved to Oculus as CTO in 2013.
“With the start of the trial of our case in Federal District Court in Dallas against Defendants Facebook, Oculus and its management, ZeniMax and id Software welcome the opportunity to present substantial evidence of the Defendants’ misappropriation of our Virtual Reality (VR) intellectual property,” ZeniMax wrote in a statement given to Ars.
“That evidence includes the theft of trade secrets and highly confidential information, including computer code. ZeniMax will also present evidence of the Defendants’ intentional destruction of evidence to cover up their wrongdoing. ZeniMax and id Software are the visionary developers of breakthrough VR technology and look forward to the vindication of our claims.”
John Carmack had already testified at trial last week. He called the whole “ridiculous and absurd.” Carmack told the court of his development of a VR demo for Doom 3 in 2012 and his search for a VR headset that would be suitable to run it. That’s when he says he got in touch with Palmer Luckey, leading to the now legendary E3 2012 demo that introduced Oculus to the public.
Carmack said at trial that ZeniMax initially agreed to share code with Oculus to both companies’ mutual benefit. However, negotiations for ZeniMax to get an ownership stake in the VR firm didn’t work out. Carmack says he was told to stop working on virtual reality, and this led to his eventual departure for Oculus. On his last day at id, Carmack copied thousands of emails (including some that contained source codes) to a portable drive, but he did not use any of that code in his work for Oculus, said the gaming legend at trial.
Carmack added that he reimplemented from scratch the VR code he had written at id, and it wouldn’t even work in the Oculus CV1 headsets. He also said that ZeniMax chose not to commit to virtual reality, and Oculus was sold for $2 billion, and can be successful today, only because of years of hard work, investment and effort.
ZeniMax is seeking $2 billion in damage, which is the amount that was paid by Facebook for Oculus in 2014.