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Court authorizes jury trial to proceed in Activision lawsuit against Electronic Arts

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A Los Angeles court ordered a jury trial to proceed in a lawsuit by Activision Publishing against Electronic Arts. The case involves the poaching of the founders of Infinity Ward, the studio behind the massive Call of Duty franchise.

The case is one of the most heated battles between two major game publishers, and it involves some very high stakes. The Call of Duty games are multibillion-dollar properties that are at the heart of Activision’s business.

Actvision Publishing, a division of Activision Blizzard, sued EA in 2010 for interfering in its business by actively recruiting Jason West and Vince Zampella to leave Infinity Ward and start a new game studio with EA funding.

Activision has claimed $400 million in damages, claiming the departures of West and Zampella led to a gutting of Infinity Ward’s staff and nearly derailed one of the major Call of Duty games. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge, Elihu Berle, denied EA’s motion to dismiss the case based on lack of evidence.

EA has denied the charges and both West and Zampella have sued Activision Blizzard, saying it denied them more than $36 million in royalties that they were due. Activision alleges that EA intentionally interfered with Activision’s employment agreements with the former Call of Duty developers. Activision said it fired West and Zampella for insubordination. The trial is set to begin May 7, 2012.