Jury Advances ‘Madden NFL’ Designer Claims Against EA

A federal jury ruled Friday in favor of former Electronic Arts Inc. programmer Robin Antonick, saying he did not learn until after 2005 that EA may have used his work to develop later versions of its “Madden NFL” game.

The verdict allows Antonick to move forward with the second phase of the trial, an effort to prove that EA improperly used compute code he wrote for the earliest versions of the popular game and failed to pay him.

EA denied it used the code, arguing that other company programmers developed later Madden NFL games apart from Antonick’s work.

Antonick, a former college football player, designed a prototype that became the Madden game back in 1986 for Apple II and Commodore 64 computers.  The game has sold 85 million copies with more than $4 billion in sales, according to Bloomberg news.

Antonick sued in 2011 saying he began to realize in 2009, when EA marked the 20th anniversary of the Madden game, that some of his original code allegedly remained in the later versions.

The jury decision Friday in the first phase of the case and it focused on the statute of limitations, a question of whether the deadline had passed for Antonick to file his lawsuit.  The jury said Antonick’s suit was timely, leaving EA open for potential damage claims for if the company is found liable in the second phase.

His lawsuit seeks $16 million in damages and nearly $200 million from EA’s pre-1996 profits on the game.

Case:  Antonick v. Electronic Arts, Inc., No. 11-1543CRB