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Oculus Says ZeniMax Punished Carmack When It Couldn't Get Equity

Shots fired (back).

The intellectual property dispute between Facebook-owned Oculus VR and ZeniMax, the former employer of Oculus CTO John Carmack, has taken another tricky turn.

Last week, ZeniMax alleged that the upcoming virtual reality headset Oculus Rift used some of its proprietary technology. Carmack, the co-founder of ZeniMax subsidiary Id Software, had advised Oculus for more than a year before leaving to join the startup full-time late last year.

Oculus denied the initial claims, but online debate heated up when a copy of a non-disclosure agreement between ZeniMax and Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey leaked out. A spokesperson for the virtual reality company said in an emailed statement today that ZeniMax had “misstated the purposes and language” of the NDA.

The Oculus spokesperson went on to say that Carmack’s departure from Id — which was already reported to have stemmed from the lack of opportunity to work on VR — was more thorny than previously realized.

“A key reason that John permanently left ZeniMax in August of 2013 was that ZeniMax prevented John from working on VR and stopped investing in VR games across the company,” the statement said. “ZeniMax canceled VR support for Doom 3 BFG when Oculus refused ZeniMax’s demands for a non-dilutable equity stake in Oculus.”

That’s especially interesting because the same disputed NDA, a copy of which was obtained by Re/code, said ZeniMax and Oculus were under “no commitment” to invest in one another or “enter into any other business arrangements of any nature whatsoever.”

The spokesperson also noted that ZeniMax did not pursue its IP claims against Oculus until after Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of the company in March.

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