EA Sports files motion to dismiss lawsuit against college football video game

On3 imageby:Pete Nakos08/02/23


EA Sports
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EA Sports has taken its swing back at The Brandr Group.

The video gaming brand filed a motion to dismiss the tortious interference lawsuit in the Northern District of California court on Monday. The Brandr Group initially sued Electronic Arts in June, arguing that EA attempted to retain players’ rights while evading the company. While The Brandr Group does have group licensing contracts with more than 54 Division I institutions, the agreements with athletes are non-exclusive.

In its argument for the lawsuit to be dismissed, EA states Brandr Group’s contracts still grant athletes the right to their licenses. When the court denied The Brandr Group’s temporary restraining order in June, Judge Haywood Gilliam also outlined the likelihood of success on merits in its lawsuit. Gilliam noted at the time that even if athletes’ intellectual property and name, image and likeness are used in the game, the rights are not licensed together nor contingent on one another.

“Brandr’s tortious interference claim fails because, by the template’s terms, student-athletes retain the right to individually license their NIL,” EA stated in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

An in-person hearing has been scheduled for 2 p.m. PT Oct. 19. A Case Management Conference had been set for Sept. 26. But Gilliam has moved the call to Aug. 15. The meeting could set the date for a hearing or be the place where a resolution is announced.

In its first response since The Brandr Group first filed a lawsuit in June, EA described the licensing company’s efforts as “nonsensical.”

“Even if the student-athletes’ licenses to EA were (inaccurately) characterized as a group license, Brandr would still fail to state a tortious interference claim because its Complaint concedes that EA is separately licensing school IP from Collegiate Licensing Company, not bundling together those rights with student-athletes’ NILs,” EA stated in court documents.

EA Sports argues Brandr Group is not needed in negotiations

EA Sports contracted OneTeam Partners in June to facilitate college athletes’ likeness. Details of the agreements are still murky, but a source indicated to On3 that the cash pool for athletes was in the $5 million neighborhood, which would pay out to $500 per player. Athletes will reportedly not make royalties off the game, either.

A competitor in the college licensing realm, the OneTeam and The Brandr Group were previously doing business together. OneTeam invested a minority stake in TBG in April 2021. In documents filed Monday, EA outlined its plan to ink contracts with institutions with Collegiate Licensing Company. EA argues The Brandr Group does not need to be consulted in negotiations.

This will be the first EA Sports college football game since 2013. It will also be the first video game that FBS athletes have been allowed to benefit from their NIL. The last time the EA Sports video game hit the shelves in 2013, roughly 1.5 million copies were sold.

“The complaint will not impact our development timelines,” EA told The Athletic last month. “The game is on track and is a priority for EA Sports.”