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Madden creator awarded $11 million in suit against EA

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(Credit: EA)

The original programmer of the first Madden football game is $11 million richer today, thanks to a jury ruling in U.S. District Court -- and there could be much more money on the way.

Robin Antonick claimed that his code, which was used in the original 1988 version of the franchise, was subsequently used in later versions of the game without his knowledge. He took EA to court in 2011 to sue for royalties and interest, originally in the amount of $16 million.

The jury returned the verdict in Antonick's favor late Tuesday after three days of deliberation, saying the Madden games between 1990 and 1996 were "virtually identical" to the version Antonick created, featuring similar formations and plays.

Antonick's attorneys revealed the $11 million figure.

"This is a tremendous victory," said Rob Carey, partner at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and one of Antonick’s attorneys. "In many ways, this trial was a test of each party’s version of events. The jury uniformly rejected the idea that this game was developed without Robin’s work. It is, if nothing, a good omen for the next phase of the litigation."

That next phase is where the money gets really crazy. Antonick’s primary claim stems from a 1986 agreement stipulating he receive 1.5 per cent of profits from Madden and any “derivative works.” The verdict in this case gives Antonick the ability to make a similar claim against EA for Madden games released after 1996, which is when the real heyday for the series began. Carey alleges the game has generated revenues of over $3 billion since 1997. If Antonick’s claim holds up, he could be in for a truly massive payday.

EA, in a statement following the verdict, said: "While we’re disappointed with the jury’s verdict and will appeal, this has always been a case about games from the early 1990s, and it has no impact on today’s Madden NFL franchise."

This has never been an easy fight for Antonick. The case was first filed in 2011, but was almost dismissed earlier this year when EA argued the statute of limitations on the case had expired. One month ago, a jury found otherwise, allowing arguments on the main focus of the case to resume. The jury, however, was not allowed to consider the Super Nintendo versions of Madden or fraud claims in its deliberations.

Antonick's attorneys are trying to get those rulings reversed as well, which could potentially further add to the damages.

It’s just another football-sized headache for EA, who earlier this month watched the NCAA back away from allowing its name and logo to be used in upcoming college video games. That was due in part to an ongoing lawsuit between the NCAA, EA and a group of athletes led by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon, who contend that EA and the NCAA used their likenesses without compensation.

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