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Back in 2014 shortly after Facebook bought Oculus for over 2 Billion, game publisher Zenimax Media accused Oculus VR of stealing technology, and filed a lawsuit against them. It’s not surprising if you don’t remember this case as it was mostly lost in the noise of the Facebook acquisition itself and all the original Oculus Kickstarter supporters crying foul of the purchase. However the case has been going on behind the scenes this entire time and has now come to the public trial phase.
I’m no lawyer but I’ll try and sum up what is a very complicated case. Zenimax claims that John Carmack, who worked under Zenimax at Id Software, helped Palmer Luckey create the Oculus Rift using intellectual property that was legally ZeniMax’s. Carmack was working on virtual reality while at Zenimax as far back as 2012. Communicating with Palmer Lucky via pubic message boards Carmack and other Zenimax employees helped develop the Rift. This assistance, Zenimax claims helped Oculus secure investors and eventually be bought by Facebook. ZeniMax also claims that when Carmack left to work for Oculus he poached specific Id employees that had been involved with helping Oculus. The claim also covers Carmack copying files from ZeniMax to a USB drive and taking a “customized tool” for virtual reality that he had developed at ZeniMax. Palmer Luckey is also accused of violating a NDA he signed with ZeniMax in order to see Carmack’s work.
What surprised me about this case as I dug into it is that ZeniMax, that has been portrayed by many as this hapless company that had no clue about what was going on and is now only interested in the money, was very involved in the whole process since the beginning. As far back as 2012 ZeniMax was asking for a 15% equity in Oculus in order to have Carmack remain at Zenimax and remain in a technical advisor role for Oculus. When Oculus countered with an offer of 2% things started to fall apart. This brings us to the current lawsuit of $2 Billion against Facebook, owner of Oculus VR.
It’s anyone’s guess at this point how this will go. If Facebook/Oculus wins things go back to normal for the company. Even if ZeniMax wins, Facebook is worth hundreds of Billions and can absorb the financial loss. Oculus of course doesn’t need another public relations hit and this ongoing case has to be a huge distraction for the company as they didn’t even make an appearance as CES this year. Hopefully the case wraps soon and we can start seeing more innovation from Oculus.
The 2017 Sundance Film Festival kicks off this week with plenty of Virtual Reality to experience. VR was an interesting oddity at Sundance only a few years ago. This year there are 20 VR experiences and 11 installations at Sundance. There is actually enough to see nothing but VR sessions and experiences the entire week. So far Cinematic virtual reality company Jaunt has announce five new original, VR series slated for 2017, including a VR treatment of The Lawnmower Man, based off the 1992 cult classic sci-fi film of the same name. Next week we hope to hear even more VR news coming-out of Sundance. Right now VR content is relatively scarce in comparison to other mediums, but 2017 is the year all that changes.
News video courtesy of YouTube channel owner