California’s EA, NCAA to end video game partnership

| Jul 23, 2013 | Intellectual Property Litigation

Late last week, the NCAA, which governs collegiate athletics, announced that it will not renew its contract with California-based video-game maker EA when it expires in June 2014.

That decision ends a profitable partnership that produces PS3 games like “NCAA Football 2013.”

Although the NCAA did not expressly acknowledge it as the reason for ending its partnership with EA, the likely cause for this decision is the lawsuit against the NCAA by current and former college athletes, who alleged that the deal between the NCAA and EA resulted in the use of their names and likenesses without their permission.

The announcement is a blow to EA. The NCAA Football game is one of its most popular series. Since its debut in 1998, it has gone on to rack up $1.3 billion in sales.

The sheer profitability of college sports has been something of a sore spot for athletes for years. In order to remain eligible to play in college athletics, athletes must be students and cannot accept most forms of economic compensation. Many have complained over the years that the NCAA is taking advantage of that arrangement by making money off their efforts without sharing any of it.

In some ways, the lawsuit over the NCAA Football game represents a new frontier in an old argument. This time, the nature of the dispute pertain to intellectual property and the right of an individual to control his or her name, image and likeness, particularly when those things are used by another party for money-making purposes.

Source: Associated Press, “NCAA to stop putting name, logo on game,” Ralph D. Russo, July 18, 2013