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Oculus CTO John Carmack Sues ZeniMax For $22.5 Million

David Z. Morris

In a new chapter in the ongoing legal battle between Facebook-owned Oculus and game developer ZeniMax Media, Oculus CTO John Carmack is now suing ZeniMax for funds related to its purchase of id Software, which Carmack co-founded, in 2009. The suit is indirectly related to an intellectual property dispute between Oculus and ZeniMax that resulted in a $500 million judgment in ZeniMax's favor in February.

According to Carmack's suit, spotted by the Dallas Morning News, ZeniMax refused early this month to pay the final $22.5 million it owes Carmack through a stock conversion agreement. The final deadline for the payment is June 23, 2017.

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According to Carmack's claim, ZeniMax in a letter based its refusal to pay on some of the same allegations of contract violation and intellectual property theft that were at the center of its suit against Oculus and Facebook. Those include claims that Carmack used ZeniMax resources to refine Palmer Luckey's Oculus Rift prototype, and took the results of his research at ZeniMax with him when he became Oculus CTO in 2013. (If that sounds familiar, the allegations closely track a major plot point in HBO's Silicon Valley series).

However, the final decision in ZeniMax's suit (documents courtesy of Cnet here) was a complicated split decision that did not find Oculus guilty of unfair competitive practices or theft of trade secrets, but did find that Carmack had taken some ZeniMax game code and VR-related documents. The $500 million settlement was awarded on the basis of trademark and copyright infringement connected to the use of ZeniMax games for Oculus marketing, and the violation of a nondisclosure agreement by Palmer Luckey.

Carmack's new suit emphasizes that ZeniMax's suit against Oculus did not include explicit claims of breach of contract against Carmack, and calls its invocation of those charges in refusing to pay Carmack "an exercise in bad faith and distraction, not a legitimate basis to avoid paying the money it owed from its purchase of id Software."


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