ZeniMax Media VS. Oculus

image from: https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/design-visualization/solutions/quadro-vr/

Plaintiff: ZeniMax

ZeniMax media is the parent company of both Bethesda Softworks and Id Software. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., ZeniMax media is a video game publisher that has in its repertoire of creations, some very popular content. This content includes, but is not limited to, franchises like Fallout®, Doom®, and The Evil Within®. The record of their extensive variety of works continued with their research and development into the realm of Virtual Reality gaming, which was first introduced by their child company, Bethesda Softworks.

Defendant: Oculus VR (Facebook)

Despite the fact that Facebook -one of the largest tech giants in the world- currently owns Oculus VR, the company initially had very humble beginnings. Roughly six years ago, a man named Palmer Luckey launched a kickstarter in an attempt to raise funds to build the next greatest VR headset. The kickstarter was incredibly successful and during the next few years, Oculus began expanding its design initiatives to include more features. However, the Oculus the world knows today is in fact very different from the initial prototypes. After gaining intense popularity with its elaborate and interesting VR gaming environment, Facebook acquired Oculus and the two are currently working together in technology matrimony.

The case:

As mentioned above, ZeniMax Media is the parent company of another company called Id Software. Id Software was in charge of quite a bit of cutting edge VR research that was responsible for many of their product features. This research effort was led by John Carmack, who is the man accused of providing key trade secrets to Oculus. John Carmack stumbled upon the kickstarter launched by Palmer Luckey and took great interest in Luckey’s efforts. The two began collaborating on developmental ideas for the technology, which Carmack insists occurred on his time off of the clock at work and held no relation to the research he was being paid to do for Id Software. Later in 2013, Carmack left ID for Oculus VR where he presided as chief technology officer during the case. When Carmack left, ZeniMax claimed that the and other previous emplyees built the Oculus Rift using copyrighted code. ZeniMax Media went on to sue Facebook for $500 million which was later settled to $250 million in an agreement by both parties.

Personal Analysis:

In all honesty, I found it a bit hard to develop a proper opinion on this case. I do believe Oculus must be held to some standard of incorrectness because their very popular technology was indeed built on the privatized research of another company. The damage: ZeniMax claimed to lose essential IP and Oculus lost $250 million in court. I think this shows quite a lot about the US policy system on technology. I believe that US policy still has a lot to learn in terms of technological relations for it is difficult to properly rule on a case when most people don’t understand the basis of VR technology.


[1] https://www.polygon.com/2017/2/1/14474198/oculus-lawsuit-verdict


[3] https://www.zenimax.com/about