The jury in a lawsuit brought against Electronic Arts (EA) regarding its Madden NFL franchise ruled yesterday that the game’s original programmer is owed royalties on the Madden NFL games published by EA. By ruling in the plaintiff’s favor, the jury awarded Robin Antonick a multi-million-dollar judgment and set the stage for another phase of the Madden NFL lawsuit regarding all games in the franchise published after 1996.
After three days of deliberations in the Madden NFL lawsuit, a jury in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California ruled that Antonick was due what should be more than $11 million when interest is included. The jury’s ruling also granted Antonick the right to pursue the same IP claims against EA for Madden NFL games released after 1996. Those games generated significantly higher revenues, which could mean Antonick’s $11 million windfall is just the beginning if he files and wins future claims.
Antonick’s Madden NFL lawsuit alleges that he and EA signed a series of publishing and development contracts, culminating in a 1986 agreement that requires EA to pay him royalties on any derivative works related to the original version of EA Madden. That agreement allegedly includes current annual releases and prohibits EA from using his confidential information. The lawsuit claims that EA failed to pay millions of dollars in royalties owed to Antonick and to keep his work confidential as required by the contract.
The jury found that several of EA’s games, published between 1990-1996, were virtually identical to the original version of Madden NFL Football, developed by Antonick, and used substantially similar plays and formations. With mandatory prejudgment interest, the verdict should entitle Antonick to more than $11 million.
A future phase of the Madden NFL lawsuit will be held to determine whether EA is responsible for paying Antonick for games published between 1997 and the present, where revenues exceed $3 billion. According to a statement from his attorney, Antonick plans to seek additional compensation during this stage from the judge, who reserved for himself to decide claims for disgorgement of EA’s profits. Antonick’s legal team will also seek to appeal previous rulings that excluded Super Nintendo games and fraud claims from the jury deliberations.
The jury found that Antonick’s game and the EA games shared substantial similarity in the plays and formations available to the user, and were virtually identical as a whole. What ramifications, if any, the ruling holds for Madden NFL 25, which is slated to appear on the upcoming Xbox One and PS4 in addition to the current-gen consoles, is unclear.