Madden suit's next step: a year of comparing code

Madden NFL designer Robin Antonick recently won the first phase of a multi-tiered lawsuit against EA, entitling him to an estimated $11 million. That part addressed the games released between 1990-1996, and the next part moves into games released between 1997 and today. To raise that issue in court, the lawyers are planning a year-long discovery phase in which they crack into the source code of modern Madden.

A lengthy profile of the suit on Polygon reports that that Antonick's lawyers plan to request the code from Electronic Arts, allowing them to compare it to Antonick's original code from 1986. Specifically, they'll be looking for plays and formations from the originals, since that was the basis for this week's jury decision regarding the early 90s games.

"We're going to get the code for the new games, and we're going to compare that code to [Antonick's] code and we're going to try to make the exact same comparison," said Leonard Aragon, a partner at the law firm of Hagens Berman, which is representing Antonick. "What the jury said [in this week's ruling] was, '[EA] copied the plays and formations,' and it's our understanding that EA never changed those plays or formations. And if that's true, then EA's going to be liable going forward on these other games... We can't find out for sure till we get the code, though."

Aragon even notes that they could argue that EA reused code, either wholesale or in pieces, for Bill Walsh College Football and the Genesis NHL games. That could qualify them as "remote derivative works," which would also entitle Antonick to royalties. Aragon acknowledges that the NHL suit would be "a little weird" since the crux has come down to plays and formations, however.

The $11 million estimate this week could pale in comparison to the final judgment. The revenues generated from those games exceeds $3 billion, so royalties owed could amount to quite a bit.