back to article ZeniMax lobs sueball at Oculus, says space cowboy Carmack rustled its code

ZeniMax Media is suing virty headgear maker Oculus, claiming the start-up's CTO John Carmack is using intellectual property he developed for the games manufacturer in his new company's fancy glasses. Zenimax owns id Software, where Carmack spent years developing such classics as Doom and Quake before starting failed rocketry …


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  1. Swarthy

    With this suit, it is not a question of who to root for

    But rather who to root against.

    I agree with the FB lawyer & Carmack that any code written while at ZeniMax belongs to Zenimax, but anything after his departure does not, cannot belong to them.

    On the other hand, I wouldn't mind FB getting a boot to the face.

    1. Oninoshiko

      Re: With this suit, it is not a question of who to root for

      As much as I don't like farcebook, you are right that code he wrote after leaving isn't theirs. Also I'd like to actually see what CR1 can do.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby

        @Oninoshinko ...Re: With this suit, it is not a question of who to root for

        Here's the rub...

        When you work for a company, while you are there... you may have to sign an employment agreement which stipulates anything you invent or create while working for them is their IP.

        So if you were exposed to their IP that is used in Technology A and you leave to go to some other company and you use the IP in creating something similar to Technology A, then that company may have a case against you.

        Note, I said may... its not a simple clear cut thing. They have to first establish that they own the IP behind Technology A, and that you were exposed to technology A in your daily work. (Even if you didn't work on Technology A. )

        Note also that the IP doesn't have to be patented for their claim to be valid.

        They also claim that he took some of his code with him. Or notes. Those are work products.

        This strengthens their claim against him. Even if he just took notes and wrote the basic code from scratch, he could still be on the hook. (It will be up to a judge and/or jury to decide. )

        So on the surface they do have a case.

        That is not to say that they will win. Based on some points raised in the article... I'd say that they will end up going to court and reach a settlement before a verdict can be rendered.

        The issue is what did he take when he left, and what could the company prove that he took when he left.

        If he just left with what was in his head... then the company should get nothing.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: With this suit, it is not a question of who to root for

      The question is, did he write that code from scratch? Without source code analysis of both bits of code, you can't tell.

      If he used his knowledge to build new code, there shouldn't be a problem. If he used code he took with him or wrote parts of the code from memory, then he could have a problem.

  2. KjetilS

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

    So ZeniMax is now claiming ownership of Carmacks mind?

    1. Piro Silver badge

      If he wrote the code whilst being paid by ZeniMax, kind of.

      1. Oninoshiko

        It depends on what kind of contract he had. There may not have been any clauses for him to that effect because he was id's founder.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That was my reading of it too. Ridiculous. I'd be leaving zenimax if I worked there.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      re: So ZeniMax is now claiming ownership of Carmacks mind?

      Yes, anything you learn while working for ZeniMax means you can never work in that field/language/technology for anyone else. Good luck recruiting now guys.

      The state of Ma was notorious for taking a very broad view of non-competes, even when they weren't in the contract. With the result that nobody ever wanted to hire anyone that had ever worked for a computer company in Ma - so nobody leaving the couple of famous local universities would ever work for a local software company - and instead got the first flight to Santa Cruz.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ Anon Coward...Re: re: So ZeniMax is now claiming ownership of Carmacks mind?


        First, if you work in a large enough company, they will have a set of boiler-plate paragraphs in the contract which states the following:

        1) If any paragraph is found to be invalid, then that paragraph is invalid, the rest of the contract is still in force.

        2) Anything you design, create, work on, in terms of IP and the work products are the company's. Regardless of if you did this on your own time, or on the company time and equipment.

        3) There is usually a third paragraph which allows you to identify all IP that you own prior to the start of working at said company so that you can walk away and continue working on said technology.

        If said company doesn't have that agreement in place then someday in the future...

        If you work in IT and you are high enough in the food chain where you know what's in the sekret sauce, you end up getting called in to the office and handed a piece of paper to sign. They also have two other envelopes. One contains a check (bonus) if you sign the papers. The other contains a separation agreement.

        The 'bonus' would be the consideration owed you for signing the contract in order to make the contract valid.

        The separation agreement, wouldn't be shown to you, or even mentioned or implied. Then it would be coercion and invalidate the contract. The company may or may not terminate you for not signing the document, however most will because it means that they can't trust you nor can they protect their IP. This all depends on how paranoid the management team is, or how valuable the IP is.

        To your point, you're confusing state laws governing contracts and the companies based in said state, against the laws governing IP ownership.

        Non-competes can be enforceable if written properly. IBM does a pretty good job if you're asked to sign an employee agreement beyond the basic one. ;-)

  3. Haku

    The money of Facebook + the lawyer army of Facebook

    ZeniMax has a monetary deathwish?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It really all comes down to whether Cormack is using rendering or ui...

    Developed during his duties at Zenimax. If it was developed during his personal time on his personal machine, then he's ok. If not, then he is probably in trouble.

    But yes, the opportunity to capitalize on Oculus' new-found value is creating an incentive to leech off FB.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: It really all comes down to whether Cormack is using rendering or ui...

      In most US contracts anything you create in your own time while employed belongs to the company.

      How do you think Apple gets all those child workers to assemble iPhones ?

  5. Levente Szileszky

    Ummm, ZeniMax actually...

    ...even let JC to post his work online:

    Just WTH are they talking about now, seriously?

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Ummm, ZeniMax actually...

      What they're talking about is that Facebook has an expletiveload of money and any silly lawsuit could get a piece of that just to get someone to go away. It's already been tried. I should sue Facebook, I had a face before they started their business. I also had books.

      On the other other other hand... if I write a program today, it may have structural resemblance to a program I wrote last week, or last year. I don't go further back than that; there is stuff that evidently I've written in the past that I don't recognise at all. Except for structural similarities that I've been using all the time since.

      But I'm sceptical that you'd memorise a significant amount of copyrightable code.

  6. Adam T

    Well Carmack tweeted that he didn't write any code while under contract to Zenimin, which is easy to believe. He'll have told minions what to write instead. Bet they didn't see that coming when they drew up his contract.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      @Adam T

      Its a good thing that you're not a lawyer. ;-)

      Their lawyers would say that it doesn't matter. That he took the IP away from the company by retaining his notes. Regardless of whether he wrote the code or directed others to write the code on his behalf, the work was done based on work products he retained from the prior company.

      (Bet you didn't see that coming...)

      Its not an easy case and from what has been reported, its a question of how much to value the work he took from his former employers. Its not cut or dry in either direction and will end up being negotiated down to a reasonable amount of money. By reasonable... a point where neither side admits to anything and its enough to make everyone happy so FB can buy the company.

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