SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal court jury ruled in favor of Nintendo of America in a $160 million antitrust case brought by Atari Corp., finding that Nintendo did not monopolize the U.S. video-game market.
The nine-member jury, following an 11-week trial, found that Nintendo's video game licensing program had not caused Atari any damages.
Atari claimed Nintendo had used its monopoly power to force independent software companies to agree to keep hit games from competitors like Atari, and to provide the games exclusively to Nintendo.
Atari had filed the suit alleging that Nintendo's licensing agreements with video-game publishers constituted unreasonable restraints of trade, but the jury found that Nintendo did not have any intent to monopolize the U.S. home video-game market. However, the jury found that Nintendo did have monopoly market power.
Nintendo said such power is legal if it stems from superior products and performance. Nintendo and Sega currently dominate the $3 billion-a- year home video-game industry.
'We were confident that, in a fair trial, a jury would find that Nintendo's licensing program, which contributed to its success, had not illegally harmed anyone,' said John Kirby, Nintendo's attorney in the case. 'This verdict should serve to discourage frivolous lawsuits against Nintendo.'
The jury was unable to reach verdicts on the question of whether Nintendo's licensing agreement was an unreasonable restraint of trade, or whether this program was the means by which Nintendo acquired monopoly power.
Judge Fern M. Smith, who presided over the trial, granted a mistrial on those two counts and said she still was considering Nintendo's request to dismiss them.
'We are disappointed the jury did not understand the negative impacts Nintendo's exclusive contracts had on competition because of Nintendo's power over its suppliers and customers,' said William Jaeger, an attorney representing Atari.
'The consumer also loses from this result because the antitrust laws have worked very effectively to maintain a strong competitive environment with lower prices and better choices for consumers,' Jaeger said. 'This decision will seriously weaken those vital laws.'