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Madden creator sues EA for billions

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John Madden Football - EA

John Madden might have his name splashed on the cover of every Madden football release of the past two decades, but he didn't actually make the first version of the game.

The man who did? Illinois resident Robin Antonick -- and he believes he deserves some serious compensation.

Credited as the co-creator of the original John Madden Football for the Apple II, Commodore 64 and MS-DOS, Antonick has filed suit (PDF) in a California District Court against publisher EA for what could amount to billions in past royalties and damages.

Antonick claims that he signed a contract with EA in 1986 that entitles him to 1.5 percent of profits from Madden and any "derivative works." He further alleges that the company used his innovations as "the foundation of the Madden franchise," including features like 11-man sides and instant replay.

First released in 1988, the game has undergone countless tweaks and changes over the years. Antonick, however, contends that it can all be drawn back to his work.

"Only recently, as a result of publicity surrounding the 20th Anniversary of the 'Madden' videogame did Antonick become aware that Electronic Arts did not independently develop subsequent versions of its Madden NFL software," the complaint reads. "Instead, according to recent statements by Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, the current generation of software apparently derived from software developed by Antonick."

EA spokesperson Tiffany Steckler issued a brief statement on the matter, calling the complaint "utterly without merit."

EA has in the past stated that Antonick's code was jettisoned starting with the 1990 Sega Genesis version of the game in order to give the game a more arcade flair. The suit, however, argues that this would have been impossible without Antonick's "ground-breaking prior development work."

As a result of that "fraudulent behavior," Antonick believes he is owed "tens of millions" in back royalties as well as "an amount equal to the profits" EA has earned over the life of the franchise -- or roughly $4 billion.

It's just the latest legal headache for EA. The company is currently under fire from rival Activision over the hiring of Jason West and Vince Zampella, the founders of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare maker Infinity Ward. EA Sports is also dealing with an ongoing class-action suit contending that the company benefitted from using college player likenesses in NCAA video games without permission.

The pattern isn't lost on Antonick, who adds in his suit that EA's "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."

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