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Court overturns  Madden  creator's legal victory vs. EA

Court overturns Madden creator's legal victory vs. EA

January 24, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

January 24, 2014 | By Alex Wawro
More: Console/PC, Programming

This week the U.S. District Court conditionally granted Electronic Arts the right to a new trial to determine whether or not the company owes millions in unpaid royalties to a programmer of the original Madden game for Apple II.

The original lawsuit, filed by Madden developer Robin Antonick against Electronic Arts back in 2011, alleged that EA used technologies Antonick developed for the original Madden -- released in 1988 and 1989 for the Commodore 64, MS-DOS and Apple II -- in developing subsequent versions of the title for a variety of different platforms.

The lawsuit seemingly concluded in 2013 when a jury in U.S. District Court ruled in favor of Antonick, awarding him more than $11 million in unpaid royalties.

Judge Breyer filed an opinion [PDF] in the U.S. District Court earlier this week explaining that, in essence, the jury in Antonick v. Electronic Arts Inc., 2013 was not equipped with sufficient evidence to determine that subsequent Madden games -- specifically, those that came out on the Sega Genesis -- were "virtually identical" to the original Apple II version of Madden that Antonick worked on.

"Antonick’s expert, Michael Barr, used flawed methods to support his opinion that EA copied Antonick’s protectable expression." wrote Breyer. "Specifically, Barr (1) used reversed-engineered binary data to produce and compare visual representation of the plays in Apple II Madden and Sega Madden, rather than comparing the source code itself, and (2) relied on similarities in unprotectable elements to suggest copying of protectable expression."

Since Breyer believes that the evidence presented by Antonick to prove substantial similarities between Sega Madden and Apple II Madden is not sufficient to support the jury's decision, Breyer granted EA's post-trial motion for a new trial, writing "the Court concludes that the jury’s finding on Question 1 was against the clear weight of the evidence."

"We are thrilled to see the claims resolved in favor of EA. It was the right result," said EA lead attorney Susan Harriman when contacted by Gamasutra. "As Judge Breyer held, there is no evidence that any of the Sega Madden games are virtually identical to the Apple II game that Robin Antonick programmed."

"The evidence also proved that EA’s source code was not substantially similar to Antonick’s source code. As EA has maintained from day one, Antonick was fully compensated for his work on the Apple II game. Because Antonick had no involvement in the Sega Madden games, he had no entitlement to further royalties."

Gamasutra has reached out to legal representatives of Robin Antonick for comment on the ruling, and we'll report back with any meaningful updates.

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