It's All Fun And Virtual Reality Until Oculus Gets Bought For $2 Billion — Then ZeniMax Wants Its Cut
from the fun-of-employment-agreements dept
It’s always funny to see the greedy folks reveal themselves after a company sells out for many millions or billions of dollars. The latest is ZeniMax, the owners of Id Software, and the former employer of John Carmack. Carmack, of course, is the famous video gaming guru who left ZeniMax last year to go full time at Oculus. Prior to that, Carmack had tried to work at both companies, but after ZeniMax no longer wanted him working on virtual reality, Carmack reasonably decided to go full time at Oculus. While not exactly common, it’s also not unheard of for “rockstar” tech folks to work at and/or run multiple companies at the same time — think Steve Jobs at Pixar/Apple and Jack Dorsey at Twitter/Square. Usually there aren’t any real “ownership” issues to deal with, but it appears that once Facebook ponied up $2 billion for Oculus, ZeniMax suddenly decided that Carmack was using its proprietary technology to make the Oculus Rift work. Of course, if that were true, you would have thought that ZeniMax would have raised the issue long ago, rather than waiting until many months after they knew what Carmack was working on at Oculus. This just stinks of a company that did nothing, now looking to cash in on a big deal it had nothing at all to do with.
Carmack, in response to this has noted that no work he did has been patented, and while ZeniMax may own his code, they can’t claim to own the concept of virtual reality. This may not come down to patents (or copyright). It may come down to the terms of Carmack’s employment agreement. As lots of developers know, it’s not uncommon for some companies to have ridiculously overbroad employment agreements that try to claim the rights to basically any concept you ever thought about while you work for them.