Oculus CTO sues ZeniMax over ‘sour grapes’

It’s hard to mention the words “Oculus” and “ZeniMax” in the same sentence without also including the word “lawsuit” in there. So, why try?

The latest legal wrangling involving the Facebook-owned Oculus doesn’t involve the company directly, but it does include Oculus Chief Technology Officer John Carmack. And he is suing ZeniMax for $22.5 million.

Why? Call it a case of sour grapes. That’s what Carmack is accusing ZenMax of for not paying him that 22-and-a-half mil.

You see, back in the day, Carmack was one of the founders of id Software. You might know that company’s name because it made just a couple of the most well-known computer games of all time: “Doom” and “Quake.” In 2009, ZeniMax bought id Software for $150 million. Carmack was set to fatten his wallet with $45 million from that sale in the form of a convertible promissory note.

Then, in 2011, Carmack converted half of that note into ZeniMax common stock. When Carmack’s contract with ZeniMax expired in 2013, he left the company and became the CTO at Oculus. Facebook then bought Oculus in 2014 for $3 billion in cash and stock.

Well, we all know what’s happened since. ZeniMax sued Oculus for violating the company’s intellectual property, and in February, a federal judge in Dallas awarded ZeniMax $500 million in penalties. Facebook is set appeal that decision.

Meanwhile, Carmack says ZeniMax never paid him the remaining $22.5 million that he says he is owed by his former employers. According to his suit, Carmack believes ZeniMax won’t pay up because it’s basically having a snit fit over its ongoing legal battles with Oculus, and by proxy, Facebook.

In fact, the lawsuit actually says, “sour grapes¬†is not an affirmative defense to breach of contract.”

Photo: The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset on display after a news conference in San Francisco in 2015. John Carmack, chief technology officer at Oculus, is suing his former employer, ZeniMax, for $22.5 million. ZeniMax recently won a $500 million judgment against Oculus for intellectual property violations. (Eric Risberg/AP)


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