Oculus VR and its founder Palmer Luckey are being sued by id Software and its owner ZeniMax Media over claims that they illegally misappropriated trade secrets. The lawsuit, which was filed in a Texas court today, alleges that Luckey and his company used ZeniMax technology in order to build development tools for the Oculus Rift. It says that those actions represent contract breach, copyright infringement, and unfair competition, all things that ZeniMax says add up to an "enormous value."
A legal battle over VR technology
Facebook announced plans to purchase Oculus VR, the company that makes the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, for $2 billion in March. Weeks later, letters from ZeniMax were sent to Oculus and Facebook, claiming video game programmer John Carmack — who moved from id to Oculus — used technology developed by ZeniMax. Included in that was a non-disclosure agreement signed by Luckey two years ago that covered VR technology, a detail that's included in the complaint.
"The lawsuit filed by ZeniMax has no merit whatsoever," an Oculus spokesperson says in a statement. "As we have previously said, ZeniMax did not contribute to any Oculus technology. Oculus will defend these claims vigorously."
ZeniMax's lawsuit also claims Oculus, with the help of Carmack, hired away multiple of its former employees who knew confidential and proprietary information about the inner workings of the company and its technologies, something that gave it a "free-ride" on its way to success. It also says Carmack and those employees, together with Luckey, used ZeniMax's "VR testbed" to fine-tune the product. Carmack has publicly denied using any ZeniMax code.
"Intellectual property forms the foundation of our business," ZeniMax CEO Robert Altman said in a statement. "We cannot ignore the unlawful exploitation of intellectual property that we develop and own, nor will we allow misappropriation and infringement to go unaddressed."
ZeniMax may be better known as the company that owns id Software and Bethesda Game Studios, which made the Doom series and games like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, respectively. Carmack was a founding member of id Software, though left the company last November, shortly after becoming Oculus' chief technology officer.
Correction: The non-disclosure agreement included in the suit involves Palmer Luckey. This article originally said it was signed by John Carmack.