At just 21 years old, Palmer Luckey sold his burgeoning company, Oculus — which had already become synonymous with the concept of high-end VR — to Facebook for a grand total of $3 billion USD.
Now Luckey, as well as other core Oculus and Facebook figureheads, including Mark Zuckerberg and former Id Software programmer John Carmack, are at the centre of a legal battle surrounding the VR company’s intellectual property.
“I didn’t take confidential code”
Luckey testified earlier today at a trial where he stands accused of helping Oculus steal trade secrets and violate copyright agreements related to Zenimax’s intellectual property in the virtual reality space. To put the trial in context, at one point Carmack, who is the programmer behind influential first-person shooter series like Doom and Quake, worked at ZeniMax and Oculus simultaneously.
Carmack, who now holds the position of chief technology officer at Oculus, worked on a demo version of the Rift back in 2012 while still employed by ZeniMax. The prototype device used Id Software’s Doom 3 to demo its capabilities and functionality, causing a stir in the industry and making it the highlight of E3 2012 for many attendees. ZeniMax claims that the project relied on Carmack’s engineering experience to move forward and that Luckey’s original demo device was rudimentary at best.
In court today Luckey stated that he did not violate the non-disclosure agreement he signed with ZeniMax related to E3 demos that prohibited him from sharing how the Rift actually works, during his various pitches to investors at the conference. “I didn’t take confidential code,” stated Luckey in court, according to Bloomberg. “I ran it and demonstrated it through the headset. It is not true I took the code,” said Luckey.
This is the first time Luckey has appeared publicly since The Daily Beast revealed back in September that he funded a pro-Donald Trump online group back.
Carmack testified last week and stated that he did copy files from ZeniMax’s computers before officially joining Oculus in August 2013, though he denies using any code from Doom’s E3 presentations, in the final version of the high-end virtual reality headset.
ZeniMax also argued that Luckey, who is a college dropout, could never have created Oculus on his own without significant help from Carmack. The video game publisher claims Oculus’ origin story is nothing more than a “fanciful” claim. Facebook argues that Luckey’s unorthodox home schooling and interest in academic research from a young age, allowed him to obtain the adequate technical background to create the Oculus Rift’s original prototype.
The Oculus Rift initially launched on Kickstarter back in August of 2012 and would go on to raise more than $2.4 million from backers. The headset was released in numerous prototype versions before finally releasing as a full retail device last year.
Just a few months ago Oculus released its Touch motion controllers, moving the headset’s functionality up to par with the Vive by giving it full room-scale tracking.
ZeniMax is seeking $2 billion in damages from Oculus and Facebook.