Update on the Lawsuit of Zenimax versus Oculus VR

Header from a document in the Zenimax vs Oculus VR Court Case

Header from a document in the Zenimax vs Oculus VR Court Case

Introduction

It has been a while since anyone has reviewed the Zenimax vs Oculus case, so I thought it would be a good time to research the case and report on its progress.

Obviously, as a technical person, reporting on courtroom activities is far outside my regular day-to-day activities. Constructive criticism is welcome, but please be forgiving of my efforts to gather and report on this information.

This article assumes that you’re already generally familiar with the case. If you need more background information, click through the links in the next section.

Background

On May 21st, 2014, Zenimax filed suit against Oculus VR and related parties in the Northern District of Texas with claims of misappropriation of trade secrets, copyright infringement, breach of contract, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, trademark infringement, and false designation.

There are actually multiple claims by Zenimax against multiple parties here, but at the heart of the matter was the relationship of Palmer Luckey (and later, others) with Zenimax (through employee John Carmack who would later leave to work at Oculus) and the allleged transfer and use of intellectual property from Zenimax to Oculus.

For more background on the case, you may want to look at some of the early media coverage, including Kotaku’s ZeniMax Sues Oculus, Engadget’s John Carmack’s former employer claims he stole tech for Oculus VR when he left, and Dan Rogers’ blog at Gamasutra, Why ZeniMax v. Oculus Matters.

Images of Rift prototype images from November 21st, 2010 and supplied by Palmer Luckey in response to the claims by Zenimax

Images of Rift prototype images from November 21st, 2010 and supplied by Palmer Luckey in response to the claims by Zenimax

Updates

Oculus and Facebook responded to the claims of Zenimax, and asked the Court to dismiss several claims (which was not an unexpected request). Oculus said that Zenimax needs to be specific about what their trade secrets are before they let Zenimax look through their documents, and the Court agreed.

Both parties requested that the Court protect their technological secrets from the public eye, and the Court granted them an Order for the Protection of Confidential Information. Some documents and Court transcripts are not going to be available to us.

Zenimax appears to have gotten more specific with their trade secret claims. Both parties are now in the discovery process, which is due to conclude on July 16th, 2015. After additional motions and a pre-trial conference, a jury trial is currently scheduled for November 16th, 2015.

Timeline of Major Courtroom Events

May 21st, 2014
“Zenimax Media Inc et al v. Oculus VR Inc et al” filed in the Northern District of Texas as a property right case (copyright) and is assigned civil case number 3:14-cv-01849-P

June 25th, 2014
Oculus submits to the Court their response to the claims, defending themselves against all seven claims by Zenimax.

August 28th, 2014
Zenimax amends its claims to add Facebook to its claim of Unfair Competition, and to add the additional claim of Tortious Interference with a Contract against Facebook.

September and October 2014
Both sides submit a number of motions. Zenimax and Oculus request that the Court not disclose their trade secrets in public documents. Zenimax and Oculus argue on matters of discovery. Oculus and Facebook separately ask the Court to dismiss various claims against them.

Oculus specifically asks that Zenimax either specifically states the trade secrets in question, or for the Court to drop the claim of Misappropriation of Trade Secrets. John Carmack is represented by his own lawyer, which is distinct from the rest of the Oculus team.

January 26th, 2015
The Court denies a request by Oculus that the discovery process should wait until Zenimax can particularly identify their trade secrets. Oculus takes the issue to a Federal magistrate. The Court agrees that the defendants should not have to turn over their phone records.

February 9th, 2015
The Court grants a joint request by Zenimax and Oculus not to disclose their confidential information in public Court records. After this date, some documents and Court proceedings are sealed.

February 13th, 2015
A federal magistrate orders Zenimax, prior to the discovery process, to identify each trade secret and separate them out, break their claims down by the individuals involved, and specifically identify how it differs from public domain information.

February 25th, 2015
Zenimax provides a response to the request for specific identification of their trade secrets, and this document has been sealed by the Court.

March 17th, 2015
Both parties inform that Court that full reciprocal discovery is underway.

March 23th, 2015
Oculus provides further documents in support of their request for some of the claims against them to be dismissed. Zenimax provides a document which further identifies their trade secrets. Both documents are sealed.

About This Update

If this update was interesting to you, let me know. If there is enough interest, I’ll rehost some of the major documents from the case.

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2 responses to “Update on the Lawsuit of Zenimax versus Oculus VR”

  1. SpoonJuggernaut says :

    Interesting stuff mate. I wonder how damaging to Oculus it would be if they lost the case.

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