NFL game originator scores $11M in California EA royalty suit

Robin Antonick may not ring a bell among California sports fans, but the name John Madden certainly does. The retired football Hall of Famer and former Oakland Raiders coach is linked to the consistently-popular video game franchise Madden NFL Football.

Antonick was the first developer-designer of Madden NFL Football, first published in 1988 under the name John Madden Football. The designer signed several intellectual property agreements with Electronic Arts, including contracts that guaranteed Antonick confidentiality and royalty payments for the original football video game and all game derivatives.

A lawsuit filed by the developer claimed the game company did not live up to the agreements. A California jury deliberated three days before making a decision. The jury found Electronic Arts published several games through 1996 that did more than resemble John Madden Football. The games’ elements were nearly duplicates of the original.

EA was ordered to pay about $11 million for damages including interest. The court also gave Antonick permission to seek damages for EA games based on the plaintiff’s work published after 1996. Electronic Arts revenues in the later period were estimated at more than $3 billion.

The court agreed the developer played an immense role in Electronic Arts’ success. The Madden games have been EA’s flagship series because of Antonik’s contributions. The formations and plays used in the initial version of John Madden Football in the 1980s may have been the basis for every version of the game since then.

Laws have been refined considerably since Antonik’s agreements with EA. Legal experts know what hasn’t changed – promises made in contracts are enforceable.

EA’s attitude was probably not dissimilar to business practices in other companies at the time. Intellectual property contracts could have seemed more like formalities than serious documents. Twenty-seven years and $11 million later, there is no doubt the game publisher has upgraded its view of developer agreements.

If you have an intellectual property complaint that cannot be settled through meetings or discussions, contact an attorney who specializes in this area of the area. You want to protect your company’s interests and sometimes that requires filing a civil action against those who have infringed on your intellectual property rights or defending your actions in such a case.

Source: dailyfinance.com, “Hagens Berman Announces Verdict in EA Madden IP Lawsuit – Jury Finds in Favor of Original Madden Pro” Mark Firmani, Jul. 23, 2013