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Oculus-Zenimax trial kicks off with final salvo of accusations

Zuckerberg could appear in court

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wearing an Oculus Rift Oculus/Facebook

ZeniMax Media, the parent company of id Software, did not have the “vision, expertise or patience” to build the Oculus Rift VR headset or the technology behind it, an Oculus spokesperson told Polygon.

The comment comes as the years-in-the-making lawsuit over the creation of the Oculus Rift headset and the potentially multi-billion dollar industry that is tied to it, gets underway in a Dallas, Texas courtroom.

Rockville, Maryland-based ZeniMax sued Oculus in May 2014, alleging that the VR startup misappropriated trade secrets in the development of the Oculus Rift headset. The lawsuit was filed weeks after ZeniMax publicly accused former id Software chief technology officer and co-founder John Carmack of providing technology to Oculus. Oculus has said it will disprove those claims.

According to ZeniMax's complaint, Oculus co-founder and Rift inventor Palmer Luckey — along with a half a dozen ex-ZeniMax employees who are now working at Oculus — are building the Rift based on years and millions of dollars' worth of ZeniMax's research and copyrighted code.

Oculus, which is now owned by Facebook, denies the allegations, saying the lawsuit came to a head after Facebook purchased the company and as a “chance for a quick payout.”

On Tuesday, the opening arguments for the jury trial kicked off, according to a Bloomberg report. That same report notes that ZeniMax’s lawyer plans to call many witnesses, including Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Reached for comment Wednesday morning, an Oculus spokesperson provided the following statement about the trial.

“We're eager to present our case in court,” according to the emailed comment. “Oculus and its founders have invested a wealth of time and money in VR because we believe it can fundamentally transform the way people interact and communicate. We're disappointed that another company is using wasteful litigation to attempt to take credit for technology that it did not have the vision, expertise, or patience to build.”

Zenimax declined to comment about the ongoing trial or Oculus’ comment.

In October, a judge ordered that tech company Samsung had three weeks to provide details to ZeniMax about the work the company did with Oculus in co-creating the Samsung Gear VR, which runs on Oculus software.

Last August, ZeniMax amended its complaint to be more blunt about the accusations against Oculus, saying the company misappropriated trade secrets, benefitting from years of the company's research and experimentation with virtual reality technology.

“For many years, ZeniMax invested tens of millions of dollars in research and development, including research into virtual reality and immersive technologies. In 2011 and 2012, John Carmack, a singularly experienced and highly proficient ZeniMax programmer who was at that time Technical Director for ZeniMax’s Texas-based subsidiary, id Software, conducted research to address technological issues associated with virtual reality," the complaint reads. "Carmack and other ZeniMax employees conducted that research at ZeniMax offices, on ZeniMax computers, and using ZeniMax resources.”

The history of Luckey, the Oculus Rift, Carmack and ZeniMax-owned id Software, is a complicated and entwined one. You can read more about it in our previous coverage of the ongoing suit.