Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) won’t face a fraud claim brought by a former programmer who wrote code for the earliest versions of the company’s “Madden NFL” video game, a judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco said yesterday that the only claim in Robin Antonick’s lawsuit against the video game maker that will proceed to trial is whether the company broke a 1986 contract by failing to pay him royalties on works derived from his code.
After considering briefs submitted by both sides and the entire record of the case, “the court now holds that Antonick has failed to state a claim for fraud,” Breyer said, adding that he would explain his reasoning in a later filing.
Breyer also said Antonick is entitled to “only thin” copyright protection and the jury will be asked whether his work and the subsequent versions of Madden NFL are virtually identical when viewed as a whole.
“While we disagree with the dismissal of our fraud claim, we are pleased that Judge Breyer has cleared the way for Mr. Antonick to recover millions in royalties that he is owed,” Stuart Paynter, Antonick’s attorney, said in an e-mail.
John Reseburg, an spokesman for Redwood City, California-based EA, declined to comment on the ruling.
A jury found June 21 that Antonick proved he didn’t know before 2005 that EA allegedly used his work on later Madden games. That allowed the trial to proceed to a second phase over breach of contract and damage claims.
Antonick is seeking compensatory damages of about $16 million and almost $200 million from EA’s pre-1996 game profit, Paynter said. The trial is scheduled to resume July 9.
EA has sold more than 85 million copies of the software, resulting in revenue of more than $4 billion. The company, the second-largest video game publisher, has denied using Antonick’s code and has said other company programmers developed later Madden NFL games independent of Antonick’s work.
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