EA Must Face Fraud Claim by Man Seeking ‘Madden’ Royalties

Electronic Arts Inc., the second-largest video-game publisher, must face a fraud claim by a man who says he developed the first version of its “Madden NFL” video game and is owed royalties, a judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco said while he has “serious concerns about the fraud claim,” he’ll be in a better position to rule on it once the evidence has been presented at trial, scheduled to begin in June.

Robin Antonick, an Illinois resident and former college football player, said he designed a prototype that ultimately became the Madden game at EA, which has sold more than 85 million copies of the software for more than $4 billion in sales, according to a 2011 complaint.

EA hired Antonick in 1984 to write computer code for a football game to run on Commodore 64, Apple II and IBM personal computers, the video game maker’s lawyers said in court filings. EA didn’t copy Antonick’s code for subsequent versions of the Madden games, which were developed by someone else, according to the filings.

Antonick’s contract claim for unpaid royalties is limited to derivative works within the meaning of U.S. copyright law, Breyer rules. That may protect only two of the similarities he cited -- field width and play and formations -- between the game he developed and EA’s subsequent games, the judge said.

Future Royalties

Antonick seeks past due royalties and future royalties on all EA software that uses any intellectual property he produced under contracts with the company. He also seeks punitive damages for fraud.

John Reseburg, a spokesman for Redwood City, California-based EA, declined to comment on the court ruling.

“EA just used its last timeout and the clock is running down,” Stuart Paynter, Antonick’s attorney, said in an e-mail. “Mr. Antonick looks forward to presenting his case to the jury.”

The case failed to settle at a conference held last month, according a court filing. A jury trial is scheduled to begin June 10.

The case is Antonick v. Electronic Arts, 11-cv-01543, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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