updated 07:38 pm EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Document claims Palmer Luckey invented device in 2010 before contact with ZeniMax
It appears that the battle between Oculus VR and ZeniMax Media may be heating up. In a filing with the United States District Court in Texas today, Oculus defended its position that the company has not stolen any intellectual property. Oculus asked for a jury trial in the filing, while accusing ZeniMax of using an opportunistic ploy to get money out of the company on the back of its success and acquisition by Facebook.
"ZeniMax's complaint falsely claims ownership of Oculus VR technology in a transparent attempt to take advantage of the Oculus VR sale to Facebook," says the filing. "By deliberately misstating some facts and omitting others, ZeniMax makes the incredible assertion that it, a video game software publishing company for personal computers and consoles like the Sony PlayStation, invented and developed a virtual reality hardware and software system."
Oculus reaffirms that not a single line of code from ZeniMax is included in the software for Oculus VR, nor has any code been identified as being stolen. The source of the allegedly stolen code, ZeniMax claims, is current Oculus chief technical officer and id Software founder John Carmack. ZeniMax acquired id Software in 2009, leaving Carmack as technical director when the deal closed.
Even though ZeniMax had the code for more than a year and a half according to the filing, Oculus claims the company never took the time to analyze it. Oculus VR provided them the code before it went public, which it states is another channel ZeniMax could have taken to review it. The company also asserts that ZeniMax Media never made a claim of ownership prior to the deal with Facebook.
The filing from Oculus, obtained by Polygon, delves into the history behind the virtual reality device, showing some new pictures from 2010 of the original prototypes. Initially, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey started the headset as a passion project, but would later lend it to a filmmaker in 2012. Oculus VR claims that all of the work was born from Luckey's desire to create a headset, well before any contact with ZeniMax had ever been made.
Contact with John Carmack, the filing claims, was made after public demonstrations of the prototypes. Carmack would later get involved after speaking with Luckey about using the headsets during the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo. Oculus specifically points out that Carmack asked for the headset, minus the sensor unit, as he used a third-party sensor used with other head-mounted displays. No software was requested either, as Carmack intended to use his own.
However, Oculus does admit that Luckey received a piece of software from Carmack. A "VR testbed," which was "small portion of an existing game" Carmack developed, was provided to Luckey for demonstration purposes. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) was involved, the use terms of which were never defined clearly, leading it to never be finalized. Oculus argues that even after it was founded, ZeniMax Media never requested an NDA from the company for the testbed. It also stands by the idea that the NDA wasn't a "valid and enforceable agreement."
"ZeniMax had a golden opportunity to make an early investment in Oculus VR and chose to pass. The lawsuit is nothing more than ZeniMax seeking to correct for a massive missed opportunity through the assertion of meritless litigation."
The remaining parts of the filing go into detail point by point on the allegations set against Oculus. The company denies all seven counts against them, including copyright infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets and unfair competition.