Fri. Mar 24th, 2023
Those who receive this early development kit will soon get the consumer version of the Rift for free.

Those who receive this early development kit will soon get the consumer version of the Rift for free.

Oculus has made an affirmative defense in its ongoing legal drama with Id Software owner ZeniMax Media, saying Wednesday that the game publisher’s lawsuit is a creditable effort to recover the money it missed when it had the opportunity to Oculus to invest well before Kickstarter success fell off.

The original lawsuit, filed by ZeniMax last month, charged Oculus with “misappropriation of trade secrets, copyright infringement, breach of contract, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, trademark infringement, and misrepresentation” for using code and technology developed by ZeniMax. But the 32-page filing denies that ZeniMax technology was key to developing the Rift or the SDK behind it and claims the legal claims are suspiciously timed to take advantage of Oculus’ newfound generosity on Facebook.

“Until the Facebook deal and the perceived likelihood of a quick payout, ZeniMax has never filed any claim of infringement against Oculus VR, no doubt because ZeniMax has never contributed any intellectual property or technology to Oculus VR,” the legal brief reads. “ZeniMax had a golden opportunity to make an early investment in Oculus VR and chose to succeed. The lawsuit is nothing more than ZeniMax trying to correct a huge missed opportunity by claiming the lawsuit is worthless.”

As proof, Oculus cites emails from before the E3 2012 demo of the Rift in which Demise co-creator (and ZeniMax contributor at the time) John Carmack told Oculus founder Palmer Luckey that he “tried my best not to let anyone mistake the Rift as my work” and that “it was a foregone conclusion that some of the media would report Rift as my work, despite my five[r]y explicit description otherwise.”

Contrary to ZeniMax’s claims that it provided crucial programming expertise and code integrated into the Rift SDK, Oculus says several times in the briefing that “there is not a line of ZeniMax code or any of its technology in any Oculus VR product ZeniMax didn’t point to the specific code that ended up in the Rift SDK, Oculus says, though it had access to the full SDK for a year and a half before the lawsuit.

Oculus also specifically denies ZeniMax’s claims that its expertise turned the Rift “from $500 worth of optics into a powerful, immersive virtual reality experience,” and that “Luckey repeatedly emailed Zenimax to access Zenimax’s aggregated proprietary information , trade secrets and know-how.” Although Oculus admits it used a “VR testbed” and VR compatible version of Doom 3: BFG Edition developed by Carmack in development and demonstrations, Oculus says it never had the source code for these pieces of software and they were used with ZeniMax’s permission.

And what about that non-disclosure agreement, which ZeniMax says covers all the improvements and information it provided to Oculus? Oculus says it was “never finalized” and is not a “valid and enforceable agreement as it did not define the essential term ‘proper purpose’,” according to Oculus. “There was no consensus on the NDA sufficient to form a valid contract,” the defense said.

Oculus also denies that ZeniMax made some critical hardware and firmware tweaks alleged in the original lawsuit. What ZeniMax calls “custom binary code” it provided for the Rift motion sensor, for example Oculus mentions “firmware that Hillcrest had developed for the Hillcrest sensor, which Hillcrest provided free firmware to customers who purchased Hillcrest sensors.”

Additionally, Oculus points out that it had demoed a version of the Rift with a different motion sensor earlier in 2012, before any communication with ZeniMax. Carmack used the Hillcrest sensor in the E3 demo simply because he was tinkering with it on other prototypes, but the Rift already worked with a number of motion sensors at the time, and the sensor that ended up in the first Rift development kit was “much cheaper and had four times less latency than the sensor used by Carmack.”

However, Oculus doesn’t dispute many of the emails ZeniMax cites as evidence that Carmack provided technical assistance for everything from optical calibration and neck modeling to “the selection of low-latency cables” for the Rift. Several times the response simply states that “the email speaks for itself” without offering a more direct defense of this type of collaboration. ZeniMax argues that Carmack’s contract of employment means that all research and development he provided during his tenure for Oculus is the exclusive property of ZeniMax.

Sour grapes

Technical arguments aside, Oculus’ defense makes many strong claims about ZeniMax’s “missed opportunity” to invest in the company before it got off the ground. Oculus also takes issue with the fact that ZeniMax only laid claim to the Rift’s technology after Facebook’s recent acquisition of the company.

Oculus says ZeniMax was presented with “multiple opportunities to invest in the company,” and that ZeniMax even suggested that the new company postpone its Kickstarter campaign while they worked out a deal. When Oculus declined this offer, ZeniMax instead demanded “an excessive and non-dilutable interest in Oculus VR in alleged exchange for the publicity Carmack’s demonstrations and endorsement generated.” ZeniMax didn’t claim ownership of the Rift technology at the time, instead asking for a stake in the company “based on the publicity it generated for the Rift,” as Oculus puts it.

“This made no sense then and it makes no sense now,” argues Oculus. Suppose Zenimax helped create publicity for the Sony PlayStation platform with Zenimax video game demos made to work on prototype PlayStations. Zenimax would never say it owned any part of Sony PlayStation technology and Sony’s business. Similarly, Zenimax knows that Luckey invented the Rift and the technology that powers it, Zenimax knows that Carmack, the senior technical Zenimax employee who communicates with Luckey, and the only Zenimax employee working on virtual reality gaming technology, has unequivocally and consistently stated that Luckey invented and developed the Rift.”

Oculus goes on to point out that ZeniMax “seemed to have lost all interest in VR” before Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus, telling Carmack to drop any research into VR work and allowing him to publish much of his previous work in a public white paper. “It was only after the announcement of the acquisition of Facebook that Zenimax suddenly began claiming alleged proprietary rights to Oculus VR’s technology.”

ZeniMax’s “belated claim” of ownership of the Rift technology was “undoubtedly contrived[ed]… as a means of pressuring Oculus VR into a quick settlement by threatening the Facebook deal,” Oculus states. The letters ZeniMax sent to Oculus to assert their IP rights to the Rift, which leaked before ZeniMax’s lawsuit, were “a public relations attack against Oculus VR designed to destroy Oculus VR’s credibility with investors, the gaming community and other key voters and stakeholders, and to prevent Facebook’s impending acquisition.” disrupt,” as Oculus sees it.

“ZeniMax’s behavior described above was deceptive, unconscionable, unfair and characterized by a lack of good faith,” said Oculus. “Allowing ZeniMax to continue its claims would do significant harm to Oculus VR and Luckey.”

Zenimax has not yet responded to a request for comment.

By akfire1

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