Jury asks Oculus to pay ZeniMax $500M in lawsuit over VR headsets

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Facebook's Oculus was ordered to pay ZeniMax $500 million on Wednesday, after a Dallas jury ruled that Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey violated a non-disclosure agreement in building the first prototypes of the Rift headset.




Breaking down the total, Oculus will pay $200 million for the NDA violation, $50 million for copyright infringement, and $50 million for false designation if it doesn't win a planned appeal, Polygon reported. Luckey himself is expected to pay $50 million for the false designation, while former CEO Brendan Iribe owes three times as much for the same charge.

ZeniMax is a game publisher best known for studios like id Software and Bethesda. The company filed suit against Oculus in May 2014, alleging that the firm used ZeniMax code in order to develop the Rift. Luckey had been in contact with id co-founder John Carmack, who would later become Oculus's CTO. A version of id's "Doom 3" was used to pitch Rift backers.

The lawsuit argued that Carmack helped significantly refine the headset, and that the Rift SDK was adapted from ZeniMax code. A core issue during the trial, in fact, was whether Luckey was competent enough to make the headset work on his own.

Another topic was the claim that Oculus dodged attempts at a licensing agreement -- Iribe said that Bethesda's president referred to Oculus as "kids," and threatened to block Carmack from working on anything VR-based if Oculus didn't sign a deal giving ZeniMax 15 percent equity.

In court ZeniMax aimed for as much as $4 billion in damages, but this shot down by the jury, which found that Oculus hadn't misapproriated trade secrets. The trial was a high-profile affair with testimony not only by Carmack, Luckey, and Iribe, but also Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, since Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion just months prior to the case being filed. Lawyers for Oculus insinuated that ZeniMax was motivated by factors like anger and jealousy.

While companies like Facebook, HTC, and Sony are now deploying some of the world's first consumer VR headsets, Apple has largely stayed clear of the field. CEO Tim Cook has expressed interest in the technology, but argued that augmented reality is a better path, supposedly because technology should encourage human contact. The executive has admitted that Apple is investing "a lot" in AR.

At the same time, no Apple product is powerful enough to support VR on the same level as the Rift or the HTC Vive. Even high-end iMacs use mobile graphics cards that are too weak.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,201member
    uh...juries don't ask.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 2 of 10
    So ZeniMax, which bought John Carmack's id Software, is saying Carmack performed work for Oculus while he was still with id, and that's what gives them an ownership stack in the technology that flowered. Wow. Talk about a bonehead move from Carmack if true...
  • Reply 3 of 10
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,343member
    So ZeniMax, which bought John Carmack's id Software, is saying Carmack performed work for Oculus while he was still with id, and that's what gives them an ownership stack in the technology that flowered. Wow. Talk about a bonehead move from Carmack if true...


    Don't you know in the software world no one owns the software programmer are free to use what they like anywhere they like.

    A company I worked for found they had programmer using code/library files from previous employers and open source code which had freeware licensing restriction like it could not used in a for fee product. The programs felt since the wrote the code it was theirs to use anywhere they worked and anything found on the internet was free to use as well. It was huge mess these people caused, luckily it was found out before anyone was sued and then removed from the code base.

    I spend most of my career on hardware and never once thought I could take designs I worked on from one company to the next. Grant it, I have the knowledge in my head and used it elsewhere but never actually took the design files and such. I never understood the most programs view about who owns the software.

    randominternetperson
  • Reply 4 of 10
    It looks like ZeniMax may now seek an injunction to block sales of the Rift. 
  • Reply 5 of 10
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,779member
    Reality can be a bitch!
    melodyof1974
  • Reply 6 of 10
    Palmer Unluckey.
    firelockSpamSandwich
  • Reply 7 of 10
    misamisa Posts: 827member
    maestro64 said:
    So ZeniMax, which bought John Carmack's id Software, is saying Carmack performed work for Oculus while he was still with id, and that's what gives them an ownership stack in the technology that flowered. Wow. Talk about a bonehead move from Carmack if true...


    Don't you know in the software world no one owns the software programmer are free to use what they like anywhere they like.

    A company I worked for found they had programmer using code/library files from previous employers and open source code which had freeware licensing restriction like it could not used in a for fee product. The programs felt since the wrote the code it was theirs to use anywhere they worked and anything found on the internet was free to use as well. It was huge mess these people caused, luckily it was found out before anyone was sued and then removed from the code base.

    I spend most of my career on hardware and never once thought I could take designs I worked on from one company to the next. Grant it, I have the knowledge in my head and used it elsewhere but never actually took the design files and such. I never understood the most programs view about who owns the software.

    I work for two different places that produce similar content, but otherwise aren't in competition with each other.

    Because of how one contract is written, I can write code for the other without worry, but I can't do the reverse. So most of the time I need to "recycle" something, I recycle code that is easily found online in samples of how the function is used, so any claim about infringement has to first examine if the code was public domain.

    In the case of Carmack, it's likely the standard "we own everything you do" clause, that would allow the company to claim ownership over any software, hardware or patents invented while employed by the first company, even if the programmer had a separate pre-existing contract with another company and did it without any of Zenimax's resources. In this cause I would rather say ZeniMax is in the right. 

    That said, this lawsuit likely never would have surfaced if it wasn't for Carmack. This guy is known for being something of a software engineering genius, so it was in Zenimax's best interest to actually make sure IP isn't walking out the door.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 8 of 10
    It appears that half the money (a quarter billion dollars) is for "false designation." Unfortunately neither the linked article nor a quick internet search satisfied my curiosity about what that means. The other aspects (NDA violation and copyright infringement) are pretty straightforward, so it's a little odd that half the money is for "false designation."
  • Reply 9 of 10
    This judgement is BS.  They claim that no actual code was copied but that it was "non-literal copying"--- eg copying the ideas.  The thing is, you can't copyright ideas or algorithms.   So, the ZeniMax expert witness literally admitted that there was no copying while pretending like there was.


    This shows that Juries and or Judges are just too incompetent to judge technical trials.

    This is why Apple lost against Microsoft and why the iPhone patents didn't protect them-- you simply cannot get redress in court. 
  • Reply 10 of 10
    nhtnht Posts: 4,321member
    maestro64 said:
    So ZeniMax, which bought John Carmack's id Software, is saying Carmack performed work for Oculus while he was still with id, and that's what gives them an ownership stack in the technology that flowered. Wow. Talk about a bonehead move from Carmack if true...


    Don't you know in the software world no one owns the software programmer are free to use what they like anywhere they like.

    A company I worked for found they had programmer using code/library files from previous employers and open source code which had freeware licensing restriction like it could not used in a for fee product. The programs felt since the wrote the code it was theirs to use anywhere they worked and anything found on the internet was free to use as well. It was huge mess these people caused, luckily it was found out before anyone was sued and then removed from the code base.

    I spend most of my career on hardware and never once thought I could take designs I worked on from one company to the next. Grant it, I have the knowledge in my head and used it elsewhere but never actually took the design files and such. I never understood the most programs view about who owns the software.

    maestro64 said:
    So ZeniMax, which bought John Carmack's id Software, is saying Carmack performed work for Oculus while he was still with id, and that's what gives them an ownership stack in the technology that flowered. Wow. Talk about a bonehead move from Carmack if true...


    Don't you know in the software world no one owns the software programmer are free to use what they like anywhere they like.

    A company I worked for found they had programmer using code/library files from previous employers and open source code which had freeware licensing restriction like it could not used in a for fee product. The programs felt since the wrote the code it was theirs to use anywhere they worked and anything found on the internet was free to use as well. It was huge mess these people caused, luckily it was found out before anyone was sued and then removed from the code base.

    I spend most of my career on hardware and never once thought I could take designs I worked on from one company to the next. Grant it, I have the knowledge in my head and used it elsewhere but never actually took the design files and such. I never understood the most programs view about who owns the software.

    Well that's a load of horse shit.  Hardware design is stolen all the time or "reverse engineered" via hiring former employees. It's not just a software thing.

    Enough that it's a common conference topic

    https://instructure-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/account_18230000000000001/attachments/136905/Savidis_CAE-talk.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJFNFXH2V2O7RPCAA&Expires=1486420074&Signature=1H4MbRSrL6XfQzFuVlrCDd0HV9Y=&response-content-disposition=attachment; filename="Protecting Critical Integrated Circuit Intellectual Property from Theft and Counterfeiting"; filename*=UTF-8''Protecting%20Critical%20Integrated%20Circuit%20Intellectual%20Property%20from%20Theft%20and%20Counterfeiting
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