Last month Oculus was ordered to pay $500 million to ZeniMax for violating a non-disclosure agreement, copyright infringement, and false designation (claiming to build something that it didn't). Oculus is currently appealing the judgement.
Now Oculus CTO and former ZeniMax employee John Carmack has added a personal lawsuit to the mix. He's suing ZeniMax for $22.5 million, which he claims is the last outstanding payment from his sale of id Software in 2009, which ZeniMax purchased for $150 million.
Carmack's share of that sale was $45 million. He converted half of it into ZeniMax shares in 2011, but says he hasn't received the rest of it despite asking nicely. The lawsuit is a little spicy, stating, "Sour grapes is not an affirmative defense to breach of contract."
Carmack claims that ZeniMax won't pay him because of its lawsuit against Oculus, which alleges Carmack broke his employment agreement. But since the verdict in the ZeniMax / Oculus case wasn't against Carmack, Carmack claims he should still get paid.
From a personal, non-legal perspective, this whole fight is really sad. While the original lawsuit from ZeniMax was framed as a fight between two corporations, the well-known origin of Oculus is that a barefoot kid named Palmer Luckey teamed up with the definitive legend of games programming, John Carmack, to build a VR headset. Carmack contributed to Luckey's dream freely, and then later joined Oculus as an employee. It's a story of friendship and doing-it-for-the-love-of-it passion! The fact that John Carmack was an employee of ZeniMax at the time is legally true, but it's like calling George Washington an employee of America. Correct, but a little bit reductive.
This new lawsuit could be a proxy fight for the two companies, or it could just be the greatest programmer alive trying to get $22.5 million so he can build more rockets.