Update #2: Re/code claims to have obtained a copy of a non-disclosure agreement between representatives of id and Oculus VR that would seem to govern their partnership to work on VR, including Zenimax's rights to the work Carmack was doing while he was still at id. The agreement was signed in May of 2012, roughly a month before the first Oculus Rift prototype was showcased at E3, and includes language like "[Oculus VR] shall not acquire hereunder any right whatsoever to any proprietary information." The agreement further stipulates that the term "proprietary information" encompasses things like prototypes and research data.
ZeniMax confirms it recently sent formal notice of its legal rights to Oculus concerning its ownership of key technology used by Oculus to develop and market the Oculus Rift. ZeniMax’s technology may not be licensed, transferred or sold without ZeniMax Media’s approval. ZeniMax’s intellectual property rights arise by reason of extensive VR research and development works done over a number of years by John Carmack while a ZeniMax employee, and others. ZeniMax provided necessary VR technology and other valuable assistance to Palmer Luckey and other Oculus employees in 2012 and 2013 to make the Oculus Rift a viable VR product, superior to other VR market offerings. 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. Oculus has used and exploited ZeniMax’s technology and intellectual property without authorization, compensation or credit to ZeniMax. ZeniMax and Oculus previously attempted to reach an agreement whereby ZeniMax would be compensated for its intellectual property through equity ownership in Oculus but were unable to reach a satisfactory resolution. ZeniMax believes it is necessary to address these matters now and will take the necessary action to protect its interests.
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Zenimax, Oculus in legal dispute, and John Carmack's caught in the middle
UPDATE Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR has led to a fight over rights to virtual reality technology -- and game programming legend John Carmack is in the middle of the dispute.