Tetris Game in the Courts – Who Own the Game Tetris ?

June 1989
The court case between Tengen and Nintendo begins. The battle mostly hinged on one matter: Was the Nintendo Entertainment System a computer, under the definition in the contract that Belikov made Stein sign, or a video-game system? Atari argued that the NES was meant to be a computer, due to its expansion port and the existence of a computer network for the Famicom (short for “Family Computer”) in Japan. Nintendo’s argument was more to the point: the Russians at ELORG had never had the intention of selling the video game rights to Tetris; the definition of “computer” in Stein’s contract proved it.


June 15, 1989
A hearing is held about the injunctions Tengen and Nintendo had given each other to cease manufacture and sale of their respective versions of Tetris. Judge Fern Smith decides that neither Mirrorsoft nor Spectrum Holobyte had been granted the video game rights, so therefore it could not have legally given those rights to Tengen. Nintendo’s injunction request is granted.

June 21, 1989
Tengen’s version of Tetris Online is taken off the shelves, and manufacture of the Tengen version is ceased. Several hundred thousand copies of Tengen Tetris, sitting in their boxes, lie in a warehouse.

July 1989
Nintendo’s version of Tetris for the NES is released. About three million are sold in the US. At the same time, the Game Boy, with Tetris as the pack-in, is being sold. America gets Tetrisized.

This ends the main history of Tetris; the lawsuit between Nintendo and Atari would continue to drag on and on and on (it was finally finished up by 1993).