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Zenimax Accuses John Carmack of Stealing VR Tech

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the you-missed-the-boat,-get-over-it dept.

Games 148

John Carmack made waves last year when he left id Software, owned by Zenimax, to join Oculus VR in order to help create its virtual reality headset. Now Zenimax has sent documents to Oculus's legal department claiming Carmack "stole" technology from them when he left. They said, "The proprietary technology and know-how Mr. Carmack developed when he was a ZeniMax employee, and used by Oculus, are owned by ZeniMax. 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." Carmack says, "No work I have ever done has been patented. Zenimax owns the code that I wrote, but they don't own VR." Oculus was also dismissive: "It's unfortunate, but when there's this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims."

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Zenimax again? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893305)

They've proved to be trolls before, so this doesn't surprise me in the least.

Re:Zenimax again? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46894629)

It sounds to me like Zenimax doesn't understand that in California, "no compete" carries zero legal weight. I seriously doubt Carmack stole anything, they just don't like that he's using his knowledge and experience at a different company.

Lack of patents aside... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893319)

Just what original work has Carmack done in VR? All this VR stuff is decades old, there's very little truly original work in an Oculus Rift and what there is was not done by Carmack from what I can tell (sorry John, you're awesome but not original in this instance), so this claim is double nonsense.

Re:Lack of patents aside... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893411)

That's what people don't understand and the reason why patents suck. Ideas are NOT original. Implementations are.

Re:Lack of patents aside... (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 5 months ago | (#46893501)

That's why patents cover implementations, not ideas.

Implement any given patent in a different way so as not to hit the patent's claims, and you have a whole new (and probably separately patentable) thing.

Re:Lack of patents aside... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893587)

Not really. An actual software implementation would be source code, which is protected by copyright, not patent. A patent for software is often much more like "idea" than "implementation". See "slide to unlock", "bounce back when you reach the end of a list", or "rounded corner".

Re:Lack of patents aside... (-1, Troll)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 5 months ago | (#46893805)

See "slide to unlock"

...which can be avoided by not requiring continuous contact with the screen, such as having a slowly-resetting (but "catchable") slider. All of the patent's claims note that the contact is continuous.

"bounce back when you reach the end of a list"

...which can be avoided by not showing the background behind the document (for example, by stretching the visible portion of the document so it remains filling the screen).

"rounded corner"

Which is a design patent, covering the entire visual appearance of the device. Avoidable by having a rounded rectangle with multiple colors, texture, or other readily-apparent differences. Interpretation of a design patent is more vague by its aesthetic nature, but the simple test is to see if someone with only passing familiarity with a patented design would be able to immediately distinguish between it an a competitor.

Re:Lack of patents aside... (3, Insightful)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | about 5 months ago | (#46894051)

They're all still stupid things to patent.

Re:Lack of patents aside... (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about 5 months ago | (#46897403)

Just what original work has Carmack done in VR? All this VR stuff is decades old, there's very little truly original work in an Oculus Rift and what there is was not done by Carmack from what I can tell (sorry John, you're awesome but not original in this instance), so this claim is double nonsense.

How much do you know about John's work at Oculus? Just because VR has been done before, that doesn't mean that it can't be done better than before.

Anyway, all of 3D gaming is ancient, I was playing Elite on the BBC Micro in 1984. Therefore everything that has been done since then is unoriginal and derivative of Elite.

Make deals with the devil (5, Insightful)

Dutch Gun (899105) | about 5 months ago | (#46893337)

Ah, John, you make deals with the devil... are you then surprised when he comes calling for repayment? It's unfortunate that so many smaller, independent studios are absorbed by larger companies, who then proceed to strip-mine them of their IP and talent, leaving a dessicated corpse of a company in their wake to be discarded at their convenience.

I'm sure their partership with Facebook will be *completely* different.

Re:Make deals with the devil (1)

Bryan Ischo (893) | about 5 months ago | (#46893387)

Companies aren't people and the "dessicated corpse of a company" is not something to cry about.

The good people are absorbed into the acquiring company, and the dead wood is cast off. The "company" is an illusion and it dissipates into the aether as it should.

Nothing to cry about, unless you're part of the dead wood I guess.

Re:Make deals with the devil (3, Interesting)

Zephyn (415698) | about 5 months ago | (#46893471)

It's not just about people, it's also about the before buyout/after buyout difference in the quality of the products produced by the 'wholly owned subsidiary'.

People who enjoyed games by Westwood, Bioware, or Maxis before they were bought out by EA understand this.

Re:Make deals with the devil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893927)

good bless C&C during the westwood days, sim city during the maxis days, baulder's gate/neverwinter nights thou the first dragon age was great.

Re:Make deals with the devil (1)

Piata (927858) | about 5 months ago | (#46896671)

The first DA was started before the acquisition. It actually had a really long dev cycle (5+ years?) Of course EA gets their hands on BioWare and immediately shovels out another DA game in what... a year or two tops?

Re:Make deals with the devil (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893537)

How's life over in fantasy land?
Anyone half talented jumps ship as fast as possible, leaving the dead wood and the rights to a franchise. Which will be driven into the ground within one or two releases by a bunch of MBAs playing buzzword bingo in a "design committee".
See: SimCity 5.

Re:Make deals with the devil (1)

Bryan Ischo (893) | about 5 months ago | (#46893551)

Who cares. The good people go elsewhere and more good product is made under a different name.

Also I dispute that anyway. Many good people may stay on indefinitely because they like their position in the new company. It happens.

Re:Make deals with the devil (4, Insightful)

hibiki_r (649814) | about 5 months ago | (#46893577)

You must have a very different experience with buyouts than I do. I've seen a few over the years. If there are no relocations, some people stay as long as required to get the customary retention bonus, and they they all disappear en masse.

Companies have a culture. Some cultures are pretty good, others are terrible. An acquisition tends to obliterate the purchased company's culture, while bringing in part of the culture of the buyer, except that the team that remains doesn't really buy in that parent culture in the slightest.

So maybe companies aren't something to cry about, but nice relationships and a culture that is destroyed, all for what in the end is seen is a failure of an acquisition, is something that can make people sad, and for good reason.

Re:Make deals with the devil (2)

Dutch Gun (899105) | about 5 months ago | (#46894217)

If you've ever been a part of a really great team, then you know that the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. It's an almost impossible thing to engineer, and extremely difficult to sustain it over a long period. A buyout has a high likelyhood of destroying the magic of that team due to outside interference. A company provides a place to nurture and develop highly effective teams, and has a big part in defining the overall culture at its workplace. I don't think that's an illusion by any means. It's a very real and tangible thing.

After a buyout... yes, many people end up in the parent company, but if they really wanted to be a part of that parent company, they probably would have applied there in the first place. And for those that leave... finding a new job is an incredibly stressful thing, as nearly anyone can attest to. The only benefit is a short term infusion of cash, which gives the company perhaps one cool new project before the honeymoon is over and things start going down the toilet.

EA has swallowed up and destroyed many incredible companies (Bioware is the latest example of a company in rapid decline). For myself, I speak as a fan, as I see the products I previously enjoyed now declining in quality until I give up on them completely. This happens time and time again after acquisition. It's hard not to attribute the cause to the buyout.

Re:Make deals with the devil (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 5 months ago | (#46894713)

Companies do have a 'corporate culture' - the collective personality of all the decision-makers. Some of these are more friendly to society in general than others.

Re:Make deals with the devil (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 5 months ago | (#46895401)

Companies aren't people and the "dessicated corpse of a company" is not something to cry about.

The good people are absorbed into the acquiring company, and the dead wood is cast off. The "company" is an illusion and it dissipates into the aether as it should.

The whole is more than just sum of the parts. A company is not just a bunch of assets, it's also a container for the organizational culture. This culture is ultimately the difference between succesful and failing companies, and is often lost when the company is absorbed.

The same is of course true for nations and other organizations, too.

Beyond this, the tendency of large incumbents to absorb small startups leads to a marketplace dominated by just a few large companies, which become de facto monopolies and might even become Too Big To Fail.

Carmack is a very rich man again (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46894147)

After 'burning' iD (Carmack lost interest in making AAA games engines that anyone wanted to license- he had ONE customer for the Doom 3 engine, and zero likely customers for the Rage engine), and failing with his 'space' projects, one would assumed he was done- finished. But, on Zenimax's dime, with Zenimax's total permission, he created a new opportunity for himself at the 'stone soup' joke of a VR company, Oculus VR, and bounced back to the top when Facebook wrote that cheque for 2 billion.

And there are dummies here so moronic, they accuse Carmack of having made some kind of mistake? It is just hilarious watching betas try to judge alphas.

At Oculus VR, Carmack can "fiddle" to his heart's content- all he really wants to do these days. And who can blame him. His 'glory' days are long behind him, as with so many people who are 'hotshots' in their youth. At some point, one might expect him to once again use a portion of his personal fortune to indulge in some engineering fantasy, but hopefully his space fiasco teaches him to choose something more modest this time.

Re: Carmack is a very rich man again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46897037)

This is not flaimbait. 100% truth.

Intellectual Property (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46894783)

Intellectual property. System whereby the intellect of one person becomes the property of another.

-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Own people's knowledge (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893341)

Not sure they own his "know-how". If they patented something, show us the patents. Otherwise you really can't own the fact that the person who developed a technology know that technology.
The fact that they say that creeps me out a bit.

Inevitable disclosure (2)

tepples (727027) | about 5 months ago | (#46893705)

In a lot of cases, the legal theory called inevitable disclosure [wikipedia.org] gets tossed around. It's a way to make a non-disclosure agreement act like a non-compete agreement in jurisdictions that forbid the latter, by convincing a judge that an employee has an unacceptable risk of disclosing trade secrets that he brings with him.

then again... (2)

argStyopa (232550) | about 5 months ago | (#46893375)

...insofar as their product is complete vaporware to date, Romero can clearly claim prior art (pretty much anything he's started where someone else wasnt clearly carrying him).

Just sayin'.

Re:then again... (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 5 months ago | (#46893543)

Prior art matters in patent disputes. This is not a patent dispute.

Re:then again... (3, Interesting)

Frobnicator (565869) | about 5 months ago | (#46894163)

No, it isn't. From the ZeniMax statement in the article:

The proprietary technology and know-how Mr. Carmack developed when he was a ZeniMax employee, and used by Oculus, are owned by ZeniMax.

So they are claiming that he also stole the "know-how".

If he actually took some ZeniMax programs, that is one thing. And if true, I can see how ZeniMax might have some claims.

But the term "know-how" tends to be common in unenforceable non-compete agreements, and are generally shunned in courts. People learn stuff, making the people more valuable. That is just how life works, and that is not usually a valid claim. When the people move on they can still keep secrets, but they cannot be made to unlearn that which they have learned.

Re:then again... (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 months ago | (#46894255)

If they can prove it was a trade secret, maybe. You don't get to take that "know-how" (depending on laws and agreements) if it's not out.

Re:then again... (1)

citizenr (871508) | about 5 months ago | (#46894921)

If he actually took some ZeniMax programs

Its about him _thinking_ about VR while on zenimax clock. This is the know how they want back - his ideas while being employed by them.

Pretty hilarious from my european perspective, but I bed expensive US lawyers can extract some money from fb just on tha retarded merit.

Re:then again... (1)

Parafilmus (107866) | about 5 months ago | (#46895777)

There was a case some years ago, in Texas upholding exactly that notion.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2... [theregister.co.uk]

Zenimax (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893541)

Zenimax has always been a massive troll...

Trade secrets, not patents (5, Interesting)

Dachannien (617929) | about 5 months ago | (#46893617)

What we're dealing with here is a trade secret dispute. Zenimax alleges that Carmack was privy to inside knowledge of Zenimax's work on VR tech while he worked there, and now he's allegedly run off with that knowledge and given it to Oculus VR.

Think of it like the formula for Coca Cola - it's not patented, never has been, but it's protected by trade secrets law. If someone works for Coca Cola and discovers/absconds with the formula, and then sells it to, e.g., Pepsi, then that person violates trade secrets laws by doing so. But if Pepsi independently discovers or reverse engineers Coke to discover the formula on their own, without relying on Coca Cola's inside knowledge, then more power to them.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893751)

but what if the inventor of the formula goes to work for pepsi and then invent a similar but different formula

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (4, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 5 months ago | (#46893789)

If someone works for Coca Cola and discovers/absconds with the formula, and then sells it to, e.g., Pepsi, then that person violates trade secrets laws by doing so.

Back in 2006, this actually happened [foxnews.com] . Instead of using the formula, Pepsi notified Coca Cola, and Coca Cola then reported it to the FBI. It makes sense that Pepsi would decline the offer, since in blind taste tests most people prefer Pepsi. Coke is successful because of their marketing and brand, not because of the taste of their "secret formula".

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 5 months ago | (#46893857)

If you say so, Pepsi is like Mountain Dew. Not quite as bad though, and Dew tastes like hedgehog piss and liquid sugar.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893981)

Meanwhile, Coca Cola is the ass sweat of a swine in heat.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 5 months ago | (#46894059)

With Dew the problem is that there isn't any sugar in it any more. I've all but given up on obtaining any in the UK, as the imported stuff all seems to have that HFCS muck in it.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 5 months ago | (#46894641)

mountain dew throwback

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

CheshireDragon (1183095) | about 5 months ago | (#46894653)

You can't order the Throwback version? That is made with the real sugar. In fact when i drink soda now I only drink the stuff with real sugar. I can taste the nastiness of the FRUCtose in everything else. Jarritos is a good brand from Mexico that uses real sugar and natural flavors.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 5 months ago | (#46895093)

So what's "real sugar"?
Glucose, fructose, sucrose, lactose?

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46895467)

The real sugar (eg sugar cane or sugar beets) is primarily sucrose.
HFCS is roughly 50/50 glucose, and fructose. (There are three different popular ratios, the two most popular are roughly 50/50).

So what was your point again, besides trying to feel superior?

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

Cederic (9623) | about 5 months ago | (#46897385)

I thought it was a reasonable question, and you actually gave an excellent answer.

Then you got snarky. It's ok, we'll let you off.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 5 months ago | (#46894623)

> and Dew tastes like hedgehog piss and liquid sugar.

Not sure how you verified that ... and I probably don't want to know. ;-)

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46895267)

Not wanting to try hedgehog piss myself, I'll take your word for it.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

bongey (974911) | about 5 months ago | (#46895507)

Thanks I now know how hedgehog piss tastes like, wondering how you ending up drinking hedgehog piss .

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46896465)

Thanks for letting me know! /me scurries off to start farming hedgehogs for their sweet, sweet nectar.
mmmm Slurm.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (4, Informative)

tlambert (566799) | about 5 months ago | (#46893947)

It makes sense that Pepsi would decline the offer, since in blind taste tests most people prefer Pepsi.

This is pretty hilarious, seeing that Pepsi had to, at one point, buy Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken before they could force them into contracts that obligated them to buying Pepsi products, since no one wanted to sell Pepsi.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (2)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 5 months ago | (#46894099)

with all of those non-dollars they earned from non-customers not-buying their product of course, right? :)

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

tlambert (566799) | about 5 months ago | (#46896049)

"Yum! was created on May 30, 1997, as Tricon Global Restaurants, Inc. an independent company, as a result of a spin-out of the former fast food division of PepsiCo, which owned and franchised the KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell brands worldwide. Because of the company's previous relationship with Pepsi, Yum! Brands has a lifetime contract with PepsiCo"

Also, here's the citation Wikipedia is missing: https://www.princeton.edu/~ach... [princeton.edu]

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 5 months ago | (#46896075)

cool. my point was more that some people clearly wanted to drink Pepsi, else Pepsi wouldn't have been able to afford to buy those restaurant chains.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46894411)

Of course they didn't need to buy the chains. They could have just offered them Pepsi at a very low price.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46896713)

At the time (mid-80s) Burger King was Pepsi.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46894087)

I like both, mostly buy coke, because it's cheaper, but pepsis ads are fucking idiotic. They should've fired the agency in the 60's. Pepsi generation, next generation, what a load of crap. Coca cola has much better commercials.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

jonwil (467024) | about 5 months ago | (#46894443)

I generally prefer Coke but will drink Pepsi if its whats available (e.g. at KFC)

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

ProzacPatient (915544) | about 5 months ago | (#46894569)

I've always liked Pepsi better because I think it has a richer stronger taste compared to Coke whereas Coke tastes to me like a flat Pepsi that's been left out in the sun for weeks. I will confess though I think Coke goes better with Jack Daniels.

As far as advertising goes; in my area Pepsi labels all their bottles, cans and advertising with "Born in the Carolinas" and North Carolinians have a lot of pride so a lot of their advertising in; Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina and of course North Carolina itself has to do with being associated with North Carolina.

Blind Taste Test (Rigged) (3, Interesting)

HannethCom (585323) | about 5 months ago | (#46894605)

I have never seen Pepsi claim their blind taste tests are fair. This makes their saying that more people pick Pepsi in their blind taste test perfectly legal. Though I still think it is deceptive.

I took the Pepsi blind taste test. I would even say that the cold, freshly opened Pepsi tasted slightly better than the warm Coke that had been opened over a hour ago. I ended up choosing the Pepsi because I all of a sudden got the craving for the Juicy Fruit that they give you only if you pick the Pepsi.

How do I know the Coke had been open for over 1 hour and the Pepsi was freshly opened? I asked the guy. He said it was policy not to cool the Coke and make sure it was open at least 1 hour. Though they would sometimes cheat and only have them open for 30 minutes when things got really busy. The Pepsi had to be cooled and they were not allowed to use it if it had been open more than 5 minutes.

As for the Juicy Fruit, that was common knowledge here at that time. If you choose Pepsi, you got it, if you choose Coke, you didn't.

Re:Blind Taste Test (Rigged) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46895403)

I once took the test, they gave Coke claiming it was Pepsi, how do I know? Simple, I drink Coca Cola a lot and I can't stand Pepsi. I drank coke before the test even. Yet no matter how much I insisted, I ended up listed under Pepsi...

Re:Blind Taste Test (Rigged) (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 5 months ago | (#46896843)

It's not just what you claim as rigging. The taste difference works differently for a small amount vs a large quantity. For drinking a whole glass, you get a different result than the small shots of Pepsi.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46896549)

You're partly right. Here's an article on the pepsi challenge [slate.com] that says some of it is advertising, but there's a stronger component to it: People always prefer sweeter things in blind tastes tests, but we prefer the less-sweet things when we have them all the time. That's why New Coke failed.

WRONG (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46894005)

Zenimax agreed with Carmack working with Oculus, while still under his original contract with Zenimax. Zenimax accepted that Carmack was coding for Oculus, and actually had a signed agreement with Oculus acknowledging that fact, and claiming ultimate ownership of that code.

Carmack and Oculus are more than happy to ensure that ZERO code owned by Zenimax goes into any future product- by all accounts the code was junk anyway, and every current significant promotion of Oculus Rift is done with other third party software, including code from Valve. Oculus Rift is literally STONE SOUP, which is why every informed person was amazed that the dummies at Facebook thought there was anything worth buying in the first place.

Zenimax chose NOT to have a payment contract with Oculus when they allowed Carmack to work there. This is 100% the fault of Zenimax. Now, after the fact, Zenimax wants to unilaterally set a payment figure, and base this figure NOT on the work Carmack did, but on the fact Facebook paid 2 billion to buy Oculus VR. This logic will crash and burn in court.

The real-deal is that Zenimax wants pay-back for their disastrous decision to buy iD in the first place. Zenimax is well over 100 million dollars down on that deal, and they'd like their money back "thank you very much". But everyone knew the hopeless state of iD before Zenimax wasted their money buying them. Carmack had ran the company into the ground, from a licensed engine perspective, with only one genuine OUTSIDE customer for the Doom 3 Engine, and no outside customers likely for the dreadful Rage engine. iD was desperate to sell, having sank their fortune into the horrible Rage game. Everyone knew iD couldn't design new games, and everyone knew that iD's main success, licensed game engines, was long dead as well. The only sane reason to buy iD was if Zenimax was convinced that it could exploit iD's IP, namely Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein- IP that even iD itself had failed to usefully exploit for years.

Every decision made by Zenimax after the purchase of iD got worse. They paid to buy the rights to 'Prey', the ONLY outside (non-iD financed) title that used the Doom 3 engine, and lost a small fortune there as well, when the Prey 2 project collapsed.

Re:WRONG (3, Insightful)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 5 months ago | (#46894337)

Yeah the id Tech engines have lost any market share they had to Unreal Engine or CryEngine.

When you consider that Zenimax itself did not use the id Tech engines e.g. Fallout 3 uses Gamebryo, Dishonored uses Unreal Engine 3, what was the point in buying it? Was it because they thought id Tech 5 would be worth it? With Carmack gone any further engine development is probably not going to happen. So id Tech 5 will probably be the last engine they will have.

It was a lame duck buy.

For what it's worth (2)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 5 months ago | (#46895983)

RAGE is an incredible technical feat. What I've heard is it doesn't have the GUI tools. Carmak still does everything from command line...

Re:WRONG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46896913)

Oculus Rift is literally STONE SOUP

You're saying that Oculus Rift is actually, not metaphorically, boiled rocks. You're literally AN IDIOT.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46894027)

What we're dealing with here is a trade secret dispute. Zenimax alleges that Carmack was privy to inside knowledge of Zenimax's work on VR tech while he worked there, and now he's allegedly run off with that knowledge and given it to Oculus VR.

Think of it like the formula for Coca Cola - it's not patented, never has been, but it's protected by trade secrets law. If someone works for Coca Cola and discovers/absconds with the formula, and then sells it to, e.g., Pepsi, then that person violates trade secrets laws by doing so. But if Pepsi independently discovers or reverse engineers Coke to discover the formula on their own, without relying on Coca Cola's inside knowledge, then more power to them.

You couldn't do it anyway. Coke contains ingredients dating back to when cocaine was still in it. It no longer contains any of the ahhh, medicinal, portions of the plant, but it still has some parts of it. Good luck importing any of that to the US though. Its very illegal. Unless you are Coca-Cola.

So even if you had a copy of Coke's secret formula handed to you be the CEO himself, you still couldn't produce a copy. Its literally illegal for you to obtain some of the ingredients.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46896425)

I highly doubt this.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46896841)

I highly doubt this.

Would have thought it common knowledge at this point. But here have some Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola#Coca_.E2.80.93_cocaine

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

RedWizzard (192002) | about 5 months ago | (#46897145)

I highly doubt this.

Would have thought it common knowledge at this point. But here have some Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola#Coca_.E2.80.93_cocaine

The Wikipedia article doesn't actually support the claim that no one else could make Coke though. A competitor could by from the Stepan Company just as Coca-cola does. If Coca-Cola don't have an alternative source then they wouldn't even be able to apply pressure to stop Stepan from selling to a competitor.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (2)

niftymitch (1625721) | about 5 months ago | (#46894359)

Well he made a tweet to the effect that none of his ideas had been pursued as patentable
and none had been patented.

He also said they have and own all the code he wrote (note the past tense).

There is a tangle here if Zenimax prevails because it implies that no programmer
can move from one job to another.

To protect himself he would also have to snapshot any and all revision control
systems containing code he worked on (as protection). That however is specifically
prohibited.....

To prosecute an honest violation Zenimax must disclose their magic and discover
code inside the new company.

OR Zenimax needs to continue to pay his salary for a GOSH DARN LONG TIME.
A gosh darn long time could be a lifetime.... in the way Mickey Mouse has a lifetime of protection.
His heirs and their heirs would continue to see a cash flow indexed by inflation, seniority
etc,,,,

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

citizenr (871508) | about 5 months ago | (#46894933)

What we're dealing with here is a trade secret dispute. Zenimax alleges that Carmack was privy to inside knowledge of Zenimax's work on VR tech while he worked there

Of course he was, HE WAS the only one working on VR at zenimax! So everything he wrote at home using laptop in his bed is zenimax property .. according to zenimax :)

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (1)

BillX (307153) | about 5 months ago | (#46896247)

Indeed, sounds like a non-compete-clause type of snit... the old "you can't work in the field you work in because you learned lots of stuff while working for us".

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46896703)

Problem is Zenimax makes games not VR equipment. Your coke example would be taking the secrets to a water bottling company, not pepsi. They're both liquid but the overlap isn't there.

Re:Trade secrets, not patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46897059)

Think of it like the formula for Coca Cola - it's not patented, never has been, but it's protected by trade secrets law. If someone works for Coca Cola and discovers/absconds with the formula, and then sells it to, e.g., Pepsi, then that person violates trade secrets laws by doing so. But if Pepsi independently discovers or reverse engineers Coke to discover the formula on their own, without relying on Coca Cola's inside knowledge, then more power to them.

That is a bad example, only because it is a ---trade secret--- unless Zenimax has filed the paper work to protect their 'property' they are in for a world of hurt when it comes to the their filings as well as a counter lawsuit.

Your talking about stealing a trade secret and outright selling it to either the highest bidder or to anyone willing to name there price. In this instance Oculus hired a former employee, I'm not sure this can be considered the same thing as selling trade secrets. And it would be difficult to prove, if he has a number of duties, that he is actually performing while working for Oculus.

I saw a few comments saying that Zenimax accusations are true, this could be a case of Carmack cashing out, aka greed, and feels Oculus already has wide public attention. So why not go where he become rich, I have questions about his move.. How much is he getting paid for his efforts at Oculus, and what type of investment package/partnership did he receive, compared to working for Zenimax. Depending on the answers, which probably will remain 'disclosed' or they'll just hide it in an offshore account from prying eyes.

that sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893653)

so Carmack made a deal with Zuckerberg to use his money to contend with Zenimax in the courtroom, because he couldn't do it alone.

Trade Secret? (2)

chyminy (1713178) | about 5 months ago | (#46893663)

I wonder if this is actually a challenge under Trade Secret law rather than patent law. Depending upon what John signed as a condition of his employment, he could be in some hot water.

The nasty facts (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893759)

Zenimax lost a fortune when it very foolishly bought iD. iD gave Zenimax exactly ONE game, the disastrous Rage that iD had sank tens of millions of dollars into prior to the sale.

The Rage engine was simply the worst generic engine ever developed- its single greatest failure is completely misunderstanding the work-flow of artists and others that produce the necessary assets for a game. With Rage, Carmack solved an interesting technical problem (that crudely became known as 'Megatexture') that no-one had ever requested be solved for modern game production.

After buying iD, Zenimax sank a new fortune into rapidly expanding the iD teams working on new games (what new games?). Rapidly, they discovered why iD had a reputation as the world's worst GAME designers. Carmack was discovered to be part of the problem, and the company was more than happy for him to "butt out" and go work with Oculus VR while still under his existing contract with Zenimax.

Today, Zenimax has two games about to be released using the Rage engine. Both look visually very primitive compared with other current AAA titles, but at least they should make some profit. HOWEVER, neither game is created by the iD teams in Zenimax.

Zenimax wants their money back. Normally, the world would respond "tough", but the whole Oculus VR/Facebook deal makes Zenimax thinks it may even turn a profit from its purchase of iD.

John Carmack was a 'free' man when Facebook finalised the deal to buy Oculus VR, but he most certainly was promoted by Oculus VR as being a key player in the team that created their success when Carmack was 'owned' by Zenimax. Today Oculus and Carmack will happily state they'll throw out ANY code potentially contaminated by Carmack's Zenimax contract- they had long depended on third-party code from other sources like Valve anyway.

So Zenimax relies on a factually true but nebulous position. And any court will ask why, if Zenimax cared about the assistance provided to Oculus by Carmack (which happened with Zenimax's explicit permission), they didn't reach an arrangement AT THE TIME with Carmack and Oculus. However, it seems that Oculus offered Zenimax some stock (long before the buy-out) which Zenimax couldn't be bothered to make a decision about.

The Law takes a dim view of companies that seek to manipulate a situation so they do the work first, and only THEN attempt to extort THEIR preferred reward. This kind of situation always smells like a well established con.

So Zenimax is going to have to prove some form of dishonesty of the part of Carmack and/or Oculus. But I bet that proves impossible. Neither Carmack nor Oculus had a history of anything but complete openness. Indeed, it was in Carmack's direct interest to be as open as possible, given how stupid Zenimax was in the first place allowing him to work with the Oculus people without a clear contract between Zenimaz and Oculus.

Most of us will expect Facebook to pay Zenimax something to go away, but Zenimax is a big company, and a 'little' pay-out is nothing to them. As I said at the top, Zenimax is actually looking to turn its financially disastrous purchase of iD into a significant profit . A quick Google suggests Zenimax paid north of 100 million dollars, but the income made subsequently from iD 'assets' wouldn't have even paid for the yearly running costs of their new purchase. So I guess Zenimax is looking for at least 100 mill from Facebook, and probably more like 150.

Re:The nasty facts (0)

TroubleMagnet (529417) | about 5 months ago | (#46894273)

I'd be amazed if Carmack's employment agreement (likely reworked when they bought id) was broad enough to encompass work he did on other projects. At least some of the code base he used for the OR was from his Armadillo Aerospace side project, I'm betting he made sure they didn't have any rights to his space project IP at the very least. I hope Greedymax gets slapped down hard enough they have to pay the legal fees for FB to discourage this kind of crap.

Re:The nasty facts (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46895105)

The Rage engine was simply the worst generic engine ever developed- its single greatest failure is completely misunderstanding the work-flow of artists and others that produce the necessary assets for a game. With Rage, Carmack solved an interesting technical problem (that crudely became known as 'Megatexture') that no-one had ever requested be solved for modern game production.

Oh please. You sound like a disappointed, angry fanboy lashing out at the wrong thing.

Every time I've read anything Carmack's written about id Tech 5, he talks about how its design was driven by artist workflow. IIRC, they wrote tools which let artists edit world geometry and paint directly onto it, using the real game engine for rendering, in real time. That frees artists from a lot of extra work carefully splitting their artwork across hundreds or thousands of discrete textures, none of which has anything to do with the creative process. Instead, they can just focus on painting. It also frees them from needing to go through a long multi-step process to see how their art will actually look in-game.

Speaking of which, I work on things which require a significant fraction of a day (FPGAs) or a year (ASICs) between making a change and finding out how it works in the real world. Even when we use simulation, there's still a delay. So I speak from considerable experience when I say that this sucks. People in my profession would kill to have a nearly instantaneous feedback loop. I cannot imagine the artistic process is any different.

I can well believe that the actual tools id produced might not have been suitable for public consumption outside id, but that's a problem they always had. The operation they ran was so small and insular that their engines and tools were usually a little too specialized into the immediate needs of their one-game-at-a-time team, and they never tried to expand their operations to properly support external engine customers. That's why, even before Rage, they tended to lose the engine licensing wars to Unreal Tech and others -- support is at least as important as technology, if not more so.

Also, the only sense in which id Tech 5 answered a question nobody had ever asked (hint: this is not actually true) is that some people (you) are blinkered by the narrow technological valley most game engines exist in. You aren't even able to ask the right questions if you refuse to believe there's a world outside the valley.

After buying iD, Zenimax sank a new fortune into rapidly expanding the iD teams working on new games (what new games?). Rapidly, they discovered why iD had a reputation as the world's worst GAME designers. Carmack was discovered to be part of the problem, and the company was more than happy for him to "butt out" and go work with Oculus VR while still under his existing contract with Zenimax.

Your knowledge of this derives from... what, exactly? Internet rumors? The same hole you pulled your opinions about game engine technology from?

And if Zenimax actually did try to "rapidly expand" id's team, they were fools who hadn't been paying much attention. id had a long history of internal turmoil which would occasionally spill out into the public, and an equally long history of deliberately trying to stay very small. Many "id" games were actually produced by other studios (esp. Raven) because id did not want to be large enough to work on more than one game at a time. Regardless of what you think about that one team's competence as game designers, that culture was doomed to break badly if its new corporate masters did not use extreme caution when instituting major changes.

And it's fucking crazy to assert that Zenimax is truly happy to see someone like Carmack go. Your entire screed about Zenimax needing ROI on their purchase ignores that Carmack himself would have been a huge reason for valuing id Software highly in an acquisition. If you can't keep him around, you have lost a huge chunk of your potential ROI, period. Why the hell do you think they're pursuing this spiteful lawsuit?

Re:The nasty facts (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about 5 months ago | (#46897271)

Zenimax should have said to John, make us an awesome walkaround engine please and let him go do it, but they were too stupid/micromanaging/political whatever.

This is how we lost "force feedback" (2)

Torodung (31985) | about 5 months ago | (#46893809)

This is exactly the way "Force Feedback" products got thrown to the wolves. I hope it isn't a similar ending for VR headsets. This stuff has been tried for over a decade.

Jonny Mnemonic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46893811)

Let's hope this dies a quick death. Otherwise, are we all meant to wipe our brains after each job? How very marketable our skills will be then - each job locks out another area from our future prospects. Will these companies continue to compensate me for all the work I am deliberately not doing for their competitors?

Tough luck to this company that they let Facebook/Oculus steal the march. They should have launched their own VR system rather than letting Oculus get all the good press.

Nothing patented, nothing to claim! (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 5 months ago | (#46893843)

I love this! For once an argument for not patenting software tech. The claims of something stolen without evidence? That's probably actionable somehow.

Has-been companies, send in the Lawyers! (1, Funny)

marcgvky (949079) | about 5 months ago | (#46893851)

Just like Blackberry.... losers!

What happens is that the companies, on their deathbeds, make bad financial decisions and get in bed with mafia financiers. They then assign patent rights to patent troll lawyers, who's entire living is made by these bullshit claims.

Good luck. Sounds like Zuckerberg has more money and better lawyers than you! Game, set, match.

Re:Has-been companies, send in the Lawyers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46894673)

Blackberry actually had a case, considering it was clearly copying their model of keypads. This, on the other hand, is just idiots shouting at each other over something that possibly never happened. (Since when was Zenimax, of all people, was working on VR tech?)

Who is Luckey? (1)

freeze128 (544774) | about 5 months ago | (#46894421)

The summary doesn't say, but "Mr. Luckey" is the FOUNDER of Oculus.

This is really stupid though, because I think Zenimax is saying that Carmack stole secret technology for Oculus that Oculus was already aware of, but agreed not to release. In order for this to get settled in the courts, the "secret" technology will no longer be secret. What a stupid move.

Re:Who is Luckey? (2)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 5 months ago | (#46895637)

This is Zenimax suddenly realizing that with Carmack off, their entire id buyout has become worthless. Their engine is awkward and basically only used by id and some related devs. Their games have been subpar at best. The only thing they had was some bright people, and Carmack was the biggest chunk by far.

They're now flailing wildly in the vain hope that they'll be able to get some compensation from somewhere.

What if... (1, Interesting)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 5 months ago | (#46894451)

What if Zenimax isn't operating alone here; what if they have a silent partner, someone with an incentive to delay Occulus; say, for example, Sony...

John Carmack and his BFG (1)

BlazingATrail (3112385) | about 5 months ago | (#46894555)

John loads his BFG and aims it at Zenimax, it fires ... screaming, flames, squishing noises and body parts everywhere.

This has happened before... (4, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 5 months ago | (#46894563)

This has happened before...
http://scholar.google.com/scho... [google.com]

This is why there is no CCR, and why Fogerty gave up music entirely out of disgust after this lawsuit. We missed decades of great music from a genius that we'll never get back. Remember this the next time a record company tells you that piracy is theft.

Re:This has happened before... (2)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 5 months ago | (#46894795)

Wow! Interesting back story!

Thank-you for exposing me to new music. Just bought CCR 20 Greatest hits off iTunes. Great to find classic rock when it still had soul before selling out.

You'd never heard CCR? (1)

roninmagus (721889) | about 5 months ago | (#46896157)

I'm biased but for some reason that sounds to me like someone saying they've never had air before, or water.

Re:You'd never heard CCR? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46896709)

Sounds like confirmation bias to me... I have no idea who they are. I had never heard of them before, nor had any of my contemporaries

Re:This has happened before... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46895835)

See also the lawsuit over the flute part in the song "Land Down Under" by Men at Work. :-(

Re:This has happened before... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46897051)

"This is why there is no CCR, and [...]"

You do realize that we are not you, which means we do not automatically know what CCR stands for...

All your thoughts are belong to us (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46894809)

Hey! We see that you used to work for us, and don't now, and we also see that you took your head full of knowledge with you when you left. We also see that you have since made boatloads of money. We believe we have a claim to your thoughts and ideas as a former employer, and are suing the other company for the rights to your head/thoughts/ideas. Actually, on second thought, we aren't interested in the ideas or thoughts, just the boatload of money (or at least a good percentage), as we really really like money too, and don't like the idea that you used to work for us and made us a little money, and now you work for someone else, and are making them a *lot* of money. We don't consider that other people working for your current company have contributed to the boatload of money (and quite frankly, we don't care). All we see are really interested in is the money coming our way now, and more in the future. Sincerely, Your Former Employer.

Why I like Califonia (1)

Chaostrophy (925) | about 5 months ago | (#46895427)

This is why like California, and one of the reasons the tech industry is out her (rather than, say, Boston). Non competes for ordinary workers are not enforceable. As long as he doesn't give his new company specific information, you are good. The skills you learned are yours. Around Route 128 (Boston), they sued people who switched jobs, people stopped, companies lost cross fertilization, and silicon valley cleaned their clocks. DEC, Wang, Prime, etc.

Sixers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46895623)

Are Zenimax the Sixers? Is it time they rename to IOI?

No more of my $$$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46895795)

I just came out of the woodwork to say I was happy to purchase the original oculus vr, but with the crooked behavior I feel is taking this company down a very negative path, I will never purchase another product from them.

Too late for trolling, Zenimax (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46896543)

The Oculus has enough funding to lawyer up properly. Go patent troll someone else.

Not absurd at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46897223)

I seem to recall that they were very open about the transfer of Carmack to Facebook, I mean Occulus, would mean a technology transfer as well. Facebook turns everything to shit.

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