(CN)- Electronic Arts cannot dismiss a lawsuit by a computer programmer who said the company stiffed him on royalties he earned designing the first “Madden” football games, a federal judge ruled.
Robin Antonick, a programmer and former college football player, designed the earliest versions of the popular Madden NFL video games for EA.
He says in his lawsuit that EA first contracted with him in 1983 to design a football game, and he designed three versions of “John Madden Football” for the Apple II, Commodore C64 and IBM computers that were released in the late 1980s.
In 1990, EA developed a new version of the Madden game for the Sega Genesis gaming system, and did not hire Antonick to work on it.
Antonick says an EA employee assured him that the new game “was being developed without any reference or use of his intellectual property.”
Although he knew that EA released new editions of the Madden games every year, Antonick says he began to suspect that the company “continued to create derivative works from his work” in 2009, following the publicity around the 20th anniversary of the Madden games.
EA claims that subsequent versions of Madden were developed based on the 1990 Sega game designed by another developer, without using any of Antonick’s work.
The company moved to dismiss his complaint after extensive negotiations, claiming the lawsuit was filed too late.
District Judge Charles Breyer disagreed with EA, and found it would be inappropriate to dismiss the action at this stage.
Antonick’s suit “offers complex and detailed explanations of various game elements that he designed and alleges have been unlawfully incorporated into later versions of EA video games,” the judge wrote.
Antonick also had reasonable grounds for suspicion that his work was appropriated when he described a 2009 interview with EA founder Trip Hawkins, the Judge found.
“Considering that the development time described exactly matched the amount of time it took for Plaintiff to create his version, it was reasonable for Plaintiff to become suspicious that [EA founder Trip] Hawkins was referring to Plaintiff’s original version, and not an independently created, subsequent version, as the progenitor of the current Madden game,” the judge wrote.