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Electronic Arts Takes Another Hit Over Madden Football
A San Francisco federal jury found Tuesday that early versions of Electronic Arts' Madden NFL Football were derivative works of a game created by Antonick. The verdict — the second favoring Antonick in a three-phase trial — will be worth between $3.5 million and $11.6 million in unpaid royalties, pending a decision on prejudgment interest, according to one of Antonick's attorneys.
More important, his attorneys say, is the verdict puts Antonick in a strong position to prove that EA's later versions of the game, worth many billions of dollars, made similar unauthorized use of Antonick's work. "Assuming that same play data is in there — and there's no reason not to — then liability is determined, or easy to show," said Leonard Aragon, a partner at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.
That phase of the trial is still years away, though. Hagens Berman partner Robert Carey, Antonick's lead lawyer, said he hopes EA will "listen to the jury here and maybe be a little more reasonable in their approach to the case."
A spokeswoman for Electronic Arts' counsel, Keker & Van Nest, didn't have an immediate statement.
Antonick is a former college football player who helped design the first edition of John Madden Football for Electronic Arts more than two decades ago. He contends the Redwood City-based company stole aspects of his game for subsequent releases. EA's lead lawyer, Susan Harriman of Keker & Van Nest, maintained during trial that Antonick's code was not copied and that the former programmer was looking to get paid for work he didn't do.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer bifurcated the trial, and last month a nine-member jury rejected EA's contention that Antonick waited too long to sue.
Antonick work was performed in the 1980s for the Apple II, MS DOS and Commodore 64. In 1990, EA turned to Park Place Productions to create a football video game for the new Sega Genesis video game console. All seven versions of the Sega game, released between 1991 and 1996, used plays and formations that were virtually identical to Antonick's creations, the jury found Tuesday.
Though happy with the verdict, Carey said Antonick may seek to appeal under Rule 54(b) Judge Breyer's decision to exclude fraud claims. An appellate decision could lay the groundwork for more favorable jury instructions in a third phase, Carey added.
In the meantime, he expects to start discovery on phase three, which involves Madden NFL Football games produced after 1996 for Sony PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox. That case would be tried before a different jury, though Carey probably wouldn't mind the same one.
"They listened to everything Electronic Arts had to say in a full frontal assault on Mr. Antonick," he said, "and they rejected everything."
This article originally appeared in The Recorder.