Judge tosses out fraud claim in Madden suit

EA won't face fraud claim from original designer Robin Antonick; case now hinges on whether EA broke 1986 contract.

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A judge has tossed out a fraud claim levied against Electronic Arts from original Madden NFL programmer Robin Antonick in his ongoing lawsuit over alleged unpaid royalties.

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Bloomberg reports that U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer last week dismissed the fraud claim, saying that the case will now hinge only on whether or not EA broke a 1986 contract with Antonick by failing to pay him royalties from the billion-dollar franchise.

Breyer said in a San Francisco court that after considering briefs submitted by both sides and the case itself, "the court now holds that Antonick has failed to state a claim for fraud." Further explanation will be revealed in a later filing.

"Breyer also said Antonick is entitled to 'only thin' copyright protection and the jury will be asked whether his work and the subsequent versions of Madden NFL are virtually identical when viewed as a whole," Bloomberg reports.

Antonick's lawyer, Stuart Paynter, said in an email to Bloomberg that though he disagrees with the dismissal of his client's fraud claim, he is "pleased" that judge Breyer has "cleared the way" for Antonick to be paid millions in royalties.

An EA spokesperson declined to comment on the decision to Bloomberg.

On June 21, EA suffered a setback in the case, with the court ruling that the statute of limitations had not expired, allowing the case to move forward. EA at the time said it is "confident" that it will prevail in the case based on the "merits once the evidence is presented."

Antonick is seeking compensatory damages of around $16 million and nearly $200 million from EA's pre-1996 game profits. The court case began late last month.

More than 99 million Madden NFL games have been sold to date, generating billions in revenue. Antonick originally sued EA in April 2011.

The next entry in the series is Madden NFL 25, a special version of the game launching in August to mark the franchise's 25th anniversary.

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