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ZeniMax: Thanks for the $500m, Oculus. How about you, Samsung?

Sueball-slinging biz kicks off new VR tech legal assault

By Kieren McCarthy, 16 May 2017

The company that successfully sued Facebook-owned virtual reality company Oculus for $500m has now set its sights on another giant: Samsung.

ZeniMax Media has filed suit [PDF] in Texas against the company, claiming that its former execs secretly developed mobile VR technology while working at id Software, owned by ZeniMax. The lawsuit claims Samsung's Gear VR headset infringes on ZeniMax's technology and trade secrets.

The case is an extension of its successful lawsuit against Oculus back in 2014 and resolved earlier this year, which claimed its CTO John Carmack had used ZeniMax's intellectual property when he developed the Oculus VR headset.

The complaint repeatedly cites the lawsuit and its victory, and even references the press coverage it received as a result of winning the case, in order to argue that Samsung "knows, or reasonably should know, that the Samsung Gear VR is based upon ZeniMax's intellectual property."

Samsung's Gear VR – a low-end version of the high-end Oculus Rift – uses Oculus software and so therefore also infringes its property, ZeniMax claims. It is seeking damages, profits from sales, royalties, injunctive relief and punitive damages. As well as lawyer fees and court costs.

Carmack had spent years at id Software, working on gaming classics such as Doom and Quake. But while there, he started work on a prototype of a VR headset and developed code that he took with him when he left to join what was then a start-up: Oculus.

Expansion

In the Oculus lawsuit, ZeniMax had originally sued co-founder Palmer Luckey for breaking a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), but later expanded the lawsuit to include Carmack and CEO Brendan Iribe.

The lawsuit came after Luckey poached Carmack to work for Oculus and then, one month before Facebook bought the company for $3bn, hired another five employees from ZeniMax. It was far from amused.

The jury in that case – in the same Texas district as the new lawsuit – found that Luckey had violated ZeniMax's NDA and that Oculus had violated its software copyrights in making the Rift headset, but rejected the claim that Oculus had stolen its trade secrets. It was awarded $500m. And the company is pushing for an injunction against the Rift.

The new lawsuit is based on the fact that the Samsung Gear VR continues to say that it is "powered by Oculus." Since Oculus does not have a license from ZeniMax, the company is engaged in a "knowing and continuing misappropriation" of its copyright, according to ZeniMax.

The case – 3:17-cv-01288 – was filed on Friday and summons were sent to Samsung on Monday. ®

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