Oculus VR chief technology officer and video game creator John Carmack is suing his former employee ZeniMax for $22.5 million, claiming a breach of contract. The lawsuit argues that ZeniMax who purchased id Software for $150 million didn’t pay Carmack the final installment of the payment.
Carmack founded id Software in 1991, and it’s the development studio responsible for the Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein video game franchises. The complaint was filed in Dallas, and Carmack alleges that ZeniMax is trying to get out of a $45 million payment and that the company is refusing to notify investors of its ability to purchase his remaining shares.
The case raised tension between video game companies because ZeniMax sued virtual reality company Oculus. Allegedly, Carmack and Oculus co-founder, Palmer Luckey, stole code that was written while Carmack worked for ZeniMax.
Carmack admitted during trial to taking the code he had developed, but in that trial the defendants were only found guilty of copyright infringement and the breach of a nondisclosure agreement.
ZeniMax was awarded $500 million, although they were suing for $2 billion dollars. ZeniMax’s attorneys believe they should’ve paid $2 billion more in punitive damages. The trial was such a serious issue that even Mark Zuckerberg attended to testify on behalf of Oculus.
The Oculus trial
Zuckerberg testified in court that there was no shared code between Oculus and ZeniMax, but evidence pointed otherwise, and Facebook was forced to pay the $500 million.
Zuckerberg talked to reporters before his testimony and said that things like that always happen.
“It’s pretty common when you announce a big deal that people just come out of the woodwork and claim they own some part of the deal,” Zuckerberg said.
However, some say that he was warned about Carmack’s mishaps at ZeniMax. The court heard that Facebook’s head of corporate development, Amin Zoufonom, warned Zuckerberg that Oculus Rift’s team had told Facebook things that were “simply not true.” Oculus was purchased by Facebook on 2014 for $2.3 billion in cash and stock.
After the trial, the tension didn’t wear off, and in February Carmack used Facebook to let out steam, attacking ZeniMax’s expert witness on computer science from the trial, and detailing the difference between ZeniMax’s and Oculus’ work.
“The analogy that the expert gave to the jury was that if someone wrote a book that was basically Harry Potter with the names changed, it would still be copyright infringement. I agree; that is the literary equivalent of changing the variable names when you copy source code. However, if you abstract Harry Potter up a notch or two, you get Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, which also maps well onto Star Wars and hundreds of other stories. These are not copyright infringement,” Carmack wrote.
ZeniMax issued a statement to IGN referring to Carmack’s latest sue.
Later on February, ZeniMax requested an injunction to block Oculus from using its code in its products, which would undermine sales from Oculus. Carmack’s lawyers explain that the Oculus trial is being used by ZeniMax to withhold his rightful payment.
“We have reviewed John Carmack’s latest legal complaint which is completely without merit. We note that this is Mr. Carmack’s second complaint against ZeniMax (…) The jury flatly rejected Mr. Carmack’s complaint, and found for ZeniMax. Mr Carmack was personally found guilty by the jury of the theft of ZeniMax’s property, including thousands of confidential ZeniMax documents he secretly took when he quit his employment, and his theft of the entire source code to id’s latest game, RAGE. (…) Apparently lacking in remorse, and disregarding the evidence of his many faithless acts and violations of law, Mr. Carmack has decided to try again” the statement said.
Carmack to this date claims that he didn’t infringe copyright laws and his attorneys have said that the Oculus trial was driven by nothing more than embarrassment, jealousy, and anger, not facts. Now, John Carmack waits for the court’s decision and ZeniMax stated that it’s “looking forward to presenting our response to Mr. Carmack’s latest allegations on Court”.