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Nintendo Wins Ruling on Soviet-Made Game

November 14, 1989 GMT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The home video rights to a Soviet-designed video game called Tetris belong to Nintendo rather than rival Atari Games Corp., a federal judge said Monday.

U.S. District Judge Fern Smith cancelled a scheduled trial and said she would rule that Nintendo owned the rights to the game.

In June, she halted sales of Tetris by an Atari Games subsidiary, Tengen Inc., which had begun marketing the game in May.

″We expect Tetris to be one of our top-selling titles for the holidays,″ said Richard Lindner, a Nintendo spokesman. The Japanese company is marketing the game for both home video systems and hand-held video machines.


Morgan Chu, a lawyer for Atari Games and Tengen, said the ruling would be appealed. He noted that the ruling does not prevent Atari Games from continuing to produce Tetris for coin-operated video games and personal computers.

Nintendo also is seeking damages for profits Tengen made from its home video sales of the game. Smith urged the companies to try to resolve that issue and others in the case.

The dispute is an offshoot of a $100 million lawsuit filed last December by Atari Games against Nintendo, whose U.S. subsidiary controls 80 percent of the U.S. market for home video game machines.

Atari Games contends Nintendo is violating antitrust laws by limiting the number of games it makes under licensing agreements with software developers and using a ″lock-out″ computer chip that prevents the software writers from independently making games that are compatible with the Nintendo system.

Nintendo says Atari Games is violating Nintendo’s patent by making games that can be played on Nintendo machines. Atari Games, based in Milpitas, is unrelated to computer-maker Atari Inc.

Players in Tetris, developed by Soviet programmers, manipulate geometric shapes to form prescribed patterns.

Nintendo said it negotiated the home video rights to the game from the Soviet foreign trade agency ELORG. That agency previously granted certain rights to the game to a British firm that was the source of Tengen’s license.

But Nintendo said ELORG had intended the British license to apply only to personal computers and not to home video games. Nintendo said the Soviets were surprised and angry to learn that Tengen claimed an exclusive license for home video production. Nintendo submitted statements from the Soviet developers of the game to Smith.