Trial to Determine if Madden Developer Can Beat the Clock with Big Play for Damages

On Monday June 17, 2013, opening statements were made to determine if Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) lied to the original programmer of the Madden NFL videogame. Robin Antonick, the game’s original programmer, claims the company continued to use the game’s code that he developed after contractually agreeing not to do so.  Monday, a California federal judge decided the case would go to trial.

Antonick worked for EA from 1984 to 1991.  During his tenure, he developed the first rendition of the game for Apple II, Commodore 64, and IBM PCs.  After Antonick decided not to help with the Sega Genesis version, EA hired a new developer.  Both EA and the new developer agreed not to use the original coding and would start from scratch.

In 2009, the company celebrated and advertised the 20th anniversary of the game which remains one of EA’s biggest franchises. During those celebrations, Antonick allegedly first discovered that the company “lied” and continued to use his code.

Antonick stated that EA’s founder “expressly trace[d] the origin of the Madden software to the 1988 version.”  After hearing this, Antonick purchased the 20th anniversary edition of the game and was “shocked” to see his code was still in use.  He then filed suit against the company.

EA denies using the code and argues it was independently created by a different developer.  Additionally, in opening arguments EA’s attorney said his “lawsuit is too late” and is barred by the four year statute of limitations.  They say, anything he could have discovered was there in 2004 when the game celebrated its 15th anniversary.

A two part trial is set to begin on July 9, 2013.  The first portion will focus on the statute of limitations issue and possible damages for pre-1996 versions of the game. For those early versions, Antonick is seeking over $200 million in damages.  If the claims are not time barred, a second trial will decide if he is owed seven percent royalties and profits for all versions after 1996.

The upcoming trial will decide if his play is too late in the game.  This case is one of many against the videogame company’s football themed games.

Antonick v. Electronic Arts Inc., No. 3:11-cv-01543 (N.D. Cal.)

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