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Original  Madden  Creator Suing EA For Tens Of Millions In Series Royalties

Original Madden Creator Suing EA For Tens Of Millions In Series Royalties

April 1, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

Developer Robin Antonick, who was instrumental in the creation the original computer version of John Madden Football, is suing Electronic Arts for two decades worth of royalties on derivative works, which could amount to tens of millions of dollars.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in California District Court [PDF], Antonick alleges 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 highlights innovations the original game brought to virtual football, such as 11-player sides, 3D camera technologies, instant replay features and "sophisticated models of player behavior in place of static rules-based gameplay."

These models formed "the foundation of the Madden franchise," according to the lawsuit, and make further games in the series subject to a 1986 contract that promises Antonick 1.5 percent of the profits from any "derivative works" made for different hardware.

EA has withheld those royalties, Antonick says, by arguing that subsequent Madden games were developed independently of Antonick's computer version. When Park Place Productions was brought in to develop the 1990 Sega Genesis version of the game, the company allegedly told Antonick that his IP would not be used because the title was going in a new, more "arcade"-focused direction.

But Antonick points out that Park Place was assisted by EA employee Richard Hilleman, who worked closely with Antonick on the original Madden and currently serves as EA's Chief Creative Officer.

In an interview cited in the lawsuit, Park Place founder Michael Knox said Hilleman spent "well over a month" living in the Park Place offices and turning the game from "something that looked good into something that actually played great football."

"Given Richard Hilleman's extensive knowledge of Antonick's code, it would not be possible for Hilleman to spend 'countless hours' working on subsequent versions of Madden without benefiting from and in fact utilizing Antonick's ground-breaking prior development work," the lawsuit says.

EA founder Trip Hawkins and long-time executive Bing Gordon are also cited by name as having "had extensive access to and knowledge of Antonick's code, design documents and other intellectual property," which were allegedly used in developing new versions.

What's more, the lawsuit also alleges that John Madden only met with Park Place during a single promotional event, meaning Antonick's earlier work in digitizing Madden's plays must have been used in the game.

The suit also expresses skepticism that the Genesis version's sole programmer, Jim Simmons, could have created the game on his own in an accelerated six month timeframe despite having no prior commercial development experience.

Beyond the Madden royalties, Antonick also alleges that his IP was used in developing the Bill Walsh College Football and NCAA Football franchises, as well as EA hockey games which Hawkins allegedly said used Madden's engine.

Antonick says his treatment by EA is indicative of a pattern of disrespect to IP rights for the company, citing current EA lawsuits over hiring employees from Activision and the use of various player likenesses in EA games as evidence.

"Electronic Arts' cavalier treatment of Antonick's intellectual property and contractual rights is symptomatic of a corporate culture that has long taken a 'so sue me' approach to the use of third party intellectual property that it does not own and generally devalues the importance of intellectual property," the suit says.

The Madden series alone has made EA an estimated $4 billion in profits, which would entitle Antonick to at least $60 million according to the royalty agreement. An EA rep did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

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