Carmack voiced his response simply, via Twitter:
Oculus uses zero lines of code that I wrote while under contract to Zenimax.
Carmack is co-creator of Doom, co-founded id Software, which was later purchased by Bethesda‘s parent company ZeniMax. In mid-2013, he joined Oculus VR as CTO, while staying on at id Software, but by November, he’d re-prioritised and left the developer to work full-time at the VR studio.
Lawyers from his former parent company are suggesting that Carmack took more than his potplants when he headed to his new employer, with The Wall Street Journal reporting the following correspondence:
It was only through the concerted efforts of Mr. Carmack, using technology developed over many years at, and owned by, ZeniMax, that [Oculus founder] Mr. Luckey was able to transform his garage-based pipe dream into a working reality.
Predictably, Oculus denies the claims, which it calls “ridiculous and absurd”. The VR company intends to “vigorously defend Oculus and its investors to the fullest extent.”
No work I have ever done has been patented. Zenimax owns the code that I wrote, but they don’t own VR.
ZeniMax seems to disagree, releasing a statement that:
The proprietary technology and know-how Mr. Carmack developed when he was a ZeniMax employee, and used by Oculus, are owned by ZeniMax.
From the statement:
ZeniMax’s intellectual property rights arise by reason of extensive VR research and development works done over a number of years by John Carmack while a ZeniMax employee, and others. ZeniMax provided necessary VR technology and other valuable assistance to Palmer Luckey and other Oculus employees in 2012 and 2013 to make the Oculus Rift a viable VR product, superior to other VR market offerings.
To recap: ZeniMax claims that Carmack developed projects at id Software (owned by ZeniMax), which he then took with him to Oculus VR. As no licensing deal is in place, ZeniMax lawyers are suggesting (in no uncertain terms) that Oculus organises a license, or prepares for legal drama.