The Elder Scrolls series publisher ZeniMax Media is seeking compensation for the Oculus Rift VR headset technology following the recent departure of associated developer John Carmack, The Wall Street Journal reports.
ZeniMax alleges that Carmack performed "extensive VR research and development" while employed at ZeniMax, entitling the company to "ownership of key technology used by Oculus to develop and market the Oculus Rift." Carmack joined Oculus as Chief Technology Officer shortly before departing the ZeniMax-owned id Software last year.
ZeniMax notes that Carmack first contacted Oculus founder Palmer Luckey in 2012 regarding the company's virtual reality technology. While at ZeniMax, Carmack allegedly iterated on a prototype VR headset he received from Luckey, later demonstrating a modified version at a ZeniMax convention booth in Los Angeles.
Social networking platform Facebook acquired Oculus VR earlier this year for $2 billion. The Wall Street Journal reports that ZeniMax's letters seeking compensation for the technology arrived after Facebook's purchase.
"ZeniMax confirms it recently sent formal notice of its legal rights to Oculus concerning its ownership of key technology used by Oculus to develop and market the Oculus Rift," a ZeniMax representative stated. "ZeniMax's technology may not be licensed, transferred or sold without ZeniMax Media's approval. ZeniMax's intellectual property rights arise by reason of extensive VR research and development works done over a number of years by John Carmack while a ZeniMax employee, and others. ZeniMax provided necessary VR technology and other valuable assistance to Palmer Luckey and other Oculus employees in 2012 and 2013 to make the Oculus Rift a viable VR product, superior to other VR market offerings."
"The proprietary technology and know-how Mr. Carmack developed when he was a ZeniMax employee, and used by Oculus, are owned by ZeniMax," ZeniMax's statement continues. "Well before the Facebook transaction was announced, Mr. Luckey acknowledged in writing ZeniMax's legal ownership of this intellectual property. It was further agreed that Mr. Luckey would not disclose this technology to third persons without approval. Oculus has used and exploited ZeniMax's technology and intellectual property without authorization, compensation or credit to ZeniMax. ZeniMax and Oculus previously attempted to reach an agreement whereby ZeniMax would be compensated for its intellectual property through equity ownership in Oculus but were unable to reach a satisfactory resolution. ZeniMax believes it is necessary to address these matters now and will take the necessary action to protect its interests."
An Oculus representative refuted ZeniMax's claim: "It's unfortunate, but when there's this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims. We intend to vigorously defend Oculus and its investors to the fullest extent."