Today Oculus VR offers up a candid response to Zenimax’s recent and very public claims that the maker of the Oculus Rift VR headset infringed upon its intellectual property. Plus, why Doom 3: BFG for the Oculus Rift was really cancelled.

Round 2 – Fight!

As we reported, software behemoth Zenimax Media recently laid claims at Oculus VR‘s door that the virtual reality start-up, its founder and CEO Palmer Luckey, and its CTO John Carmack had stolen elements of code and intellectual property for use with Oculus products. The claims were disputed immediately by Oculus VR at the time, but they’ve now issued a public statement that illustrates their defence in a pretty robust and candid fashion. The statement received by Road to VR is included in full below:

OCULUS RESPONSE

We are disappointed but not surprised by Zenimax’s actions and we will prove that all of its claims are false. In the meantime, we would like to clarify a few key points:

  • There is not a line of Zenimax code or any of its technology in any Oculus products.
  • John Carmack did not take any intellectual property from Zenimax.
  • Zenimax has misstated the purposes and language of the Zenimax non-disclosure agreement that Palmer Luckey signed.
  • A key reason that John permanently left Zenimax in August of 2013 was that Zenimax prevented John from working on VR, and stopped investing in VR games across the company.
  • Zenimax canceled VR support for Doom 3 BFG when Oculus refused Zenimax’s demands for a non-dilutable equity stake in Oculus.
  • Zenimax did not pursue claims against Oculus for IP or technology, Zenimax has never contributed any IP or technology to Oculus, and only after the Facebook deal was announced has Zenimax now made these claims through its lawyers.
  • Despite the fact that the full source code for the Oculus SDK is available online (developer.oculusvr.com), Zenimax has never identified any ‘stolen’ code or technology.
Carmack demo's an early  Oculus Rift prototype at E3 2012
Carmack demo’s an early Oculus Rift prototype at E3 2012

It’s fairly clear Oculus are angered by the Zenimax’s statements. Furthermore, it’s hard to dispute Oculus’ counter-claims that the timing of Zenimax’s statement and threat of legal action is suspicious. After all, Oculus were recently acquired by social networking giant Facebook for $2 billion, which would certainly make any potential claims for compensation much more alluring to claimants.

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doom 3 bfg oculus rift support
Doom 3 BFG

The statement regarding Doom 3 BFG will be of keen interest to original backers of Oculus’ Kickstarter campaign. You may recall that those who pledged for reward tiers that included the original Developer Kit, were also promised a free copy of a VR enabled re-release of the acclaimed 2004 title by id Software (one of Zenimax’s subsidiaries). The game had been used prior to the Kickstarter by Carmack during makeshift demo sessions that helped launch the Oculus Rift into the public’s conciousness. Sometime after the Kickstarter campaign had concluded, backers received word that Oculus were replacing the offer of Doom 3 BFG with a Steam Store credit. No explanation was given at the time for the U-turn. The truth, which came out today in Oculus VR’s statement, turned out to be much different than we had imagined. Ostensibly, Zenimax demanded somewhat extortionate terms in order to allow Doom 3 BFG to be ‘packed in’ with backer’s developer kits. A move that Zenimax may well regret in years to come.

So, both parties have set out their stalls but we’ve yet to learn precisely what, if anything, will come of these claims and counter-claims. No legal action is as yet under way (as far as we can tell), we seem to be very much at the ‘posturing’ stage. In either case, it’s clear that relations between Oculus and Zenimax are at an all time low; a situation that was plain to see when Oculus persuaded ex id founder John Carmack to join them in the position of Chief Technical Officer. At the time Zenimax’s public statements showed clear displeasure at the move. Zenimax acquired id Software back in 2009.

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Skyrim, Yesterday.
The World of Skyrim, Yesterday.

Of course, Zenimax (of which Bethesda Software is a subsidiary) are renowned publishers of some beloved game franchises. The potential fallout (pun intended) from this state of affairs is that franchises such as The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, titles that would surely make superb poster boys for the virtual reality revolution, may never see support for the Oculus Rift platform unless relations between the two firms are calmed. On that note, what now for the publicly pledged Oculus Rift support for Zenimax’s newest release, The Elder Scrolls Online?

We’ll keep a close eye on how the events in this affair unfold and bring them to you as soon as we can. In the mean time, what are your feeling on the action taken by Zenimax and in turn Oculus’ response? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Kemic

    Posting on my phone, so don’t realky want to start googling this. Can someone post a list of the subsidiery companies Zenimax owns?
    I’d like to personally boycott their products until this is over and dealt with.
    I care not for large greedy corporations. VR is a largely indie dev community and I’d prefer to support and foster their new ideas then more halo/code/etc remakes,

  • Alkapwn

    From Wikipedia:
    Development studios
    Bethesda Game Studios, established in 2001.
    ZeniMax Online Studios, founded in 2007.
    id Software, acquired in June 2009.
    Arkane Studios, acquired in August 2010.
    Tango Gameworks, acquired in October 2010.
    MachineGames, acquired in November 2010.
    Battlecry Studios, founded in October 2012.

    I think this is good that Oculus is getting ahead of this and taking a stand for what they know to be a ludicrous claim by ZeniMax. I think this will end up hurting them in the long run. They had an opportunity to really get in at the forefront of VR by being THE only fully supported game at DK1 launch. Instead of helping to set the standards that would help define an industry they were arrogant and short sighted with greed. It’s a shame really that this happened. Dug their own grave they have.

    • Curtrock

      Yeah…what he said…exactly! ^^^^^^^^^^^

    • William Wallace

      efine an industry they were arrogant and short sighted with greed.

      Interesting take. If oculus had worked w them maybe all that drama w carmack being moved around would have saved 6 months to a year in time. And we would all be further along? Does oculus have no share of the greed to blame? Notch seems to have a problem w Facebook and many say zuckerberg and his private emails are great cause for concern. Oculus is not greedy AT ALL? I love my young padawan palmer but is he not human w certain wants and needs like the rest of us.

  • Grote Snor

    As far as I care, zenimax can go burn in Oblivion

  • Nathan White

    Yeah I think Alkapwn is spot on, they could all invest time in developing and improving the VR HMD but instead focused greed. It’s quite disappointing. But could this be a weird publicity stunt?

  • John Horn

    VR support for Elder Scrolls Online? Seriously, who cares. ESO is absolute SHIT. I’ve tested it.

    I’m definitely going to boycott all Zenimax subsidiary products until they cease and desist with this childish tantrum litigation.

    If you are reading this, any member of the board of directors, shareholders, etc… Know that Zenimax has set the wrong course and will be remembered for this. Furthermore, Zenimax will no longer be at the forefront of the VR revolution. But rather, a bloated greedy corporation representing the antithesis of art and free expression. I fear for the future of Bethesda, if they have to deal with the likes of Bobby Kotick types in Zenimax.
    Zenimax is becoming like Activision and Electronic Arts… Pariahs of all that is good about the human experience.

  • Michael

    Aren’t these the same people who sued notch for using the name “scrolls” for a game? I now the law department does not define the creative talent within but these people really like to go after successful independent developers….