GamesBeat

Judge overturns damages ruling in John Madden Football programmer case

Above: 1988's John Madden Football for MS-DOS.

Image Credit: EA Sports

Electronic Arts might have just saved around $7 million.

The programmer of the original John Madden Football is no longer due damages that a jury previously awarded him. A federal judge has overturned that decision (as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle) that would have compelled publisher Electronic Arts to pay nearly $4 million plus an additional $3 million in interest.

The original jury determined that EA continued to use the work of programmer Robin Antonick for seven years after he left the company without compensating him or crediting him. San Francisco’s U.S. district judge, Charles Breyer, reversed that finding.

“Without the opportunity to view each of the versions [of the later games], the jury had no basis for evaluating whether the changes [the expert] addressed altered each subsequent game,” Breyer said. “[Therefore there was] no evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that [the games] are virtually identical when compared as a whole.”

Breyer dismissed Antonick’s case, but the programmer’s lawyers confirmed they will appeal.

“The evidence showed they used his source code without permission,” attorney Robert Carey said on behalf of Antonick.

While Antonick programmed the first John Madden Football in 1988 for the Apple II, EA Sports hired a new team for the followup games on Sega‘s Genesis console. Antonick claims for the next seven years, the publisher built every Madden game on top of his original code. EA maintains that it reprogrammed the entirety of the sequels with the new team.

“We are thrilled to see the claims resolved in favor of EA,” the company’s lead attorney, Keker & Van Nest partner Susan Harriman, said in a statement provided to GamesBeat. “It was the right result. 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 work. 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. “

EA Sports’ Madden Football franchise is still one of the biggest and most lucrative games on the market. Madden Football 25, the latest, was the third best-selling title last year in the U.S., according to market-research firm The NPD Group. It was only behind Take-Two Interactive‘s Grand Theft Auto V and Activision’s Call of Duty: Ghosts.

 

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