True, but these games as we get older are becoming million dollar assets, i.e. iPad and iPhone Atari retro games.
As for outsourcing, that wasn't what I meant. I meant that you can contract someone to code a game for you, or they can come to you with a game, and it depends on your agreement. Most developers at that time, as I understand it, gave up all rights to the mfg (i.e. Atari) to get their games out. Some might have held onto, at least, partial rights (i.e. "use" rights). Some companies "sold" the game rights to Atari, some just licensed it. It would depend on whomever "Acquired" those rights during aquistion, etc.
Most of the games for the Jaguar and Lynx were games Atari Corp. contracted out for, and in some cases (such as with Atari Games) bought licenses to use the IP. Any third party developers would have simply gotten a license to release their game on the console, which was common at the time (I.E. Bubsy).
I wish there was a clearer way to determine who owns what. It is my understadning that Atari lost most of the assets to banks at that time, that would have been software rights (these are much more important than physical inventory and there isn't a lawyer out there that doesn't understand that.). Atari's inventory was sold for pennies on the dollar, etc.
I'm not sure where you got that understanding from, Atari Corporation never went bankrupt. There was nothing lost to banks. Likewise, it's entire IP and physical inventory that was left under JTS was sold to Hasbro. By the time JTS sold off Atari Corp. (which was a division at JTS at that time) it was a single person at a desk and some warehouses of inventory (Jaguar, Lynx, computers, and older inventory from the Atari Inc. days).
The asset ownership has already been very clearly laid out. Anything Atari Corp. went to Hasbro and fell put under a division called Atari Interactive under Hasbro Interactive. Hasbro Interactive was then purchased by Infogrames and it's IP put under Infogrames Interactive. Infogrames Interactive was then renamed Atari Interactive and still exists to this day (they're the actual group in charge of monitory the IP, licensing, and sending out the cease and desists).
Atari Corporation itself had received Atari Inc.'s Consumer Division IP and facilities, including manufacturing and distribution. IP wise this included all console and computer related IP, including usage of Atari Inc.'s 1972-1984 coin-op titles for the home and ownership of their trademarks for the home. Coin was initially kept under Atari Inc. (which still existed for a time after the split) and then spun off as Atari Games. Atari Games was all the coin facilities, manufacturing, and distribution of Atari Inc. and it's coin-related patents and IP. Both companies initially shared the logo, but further negotiations shortly after had Atari Corporation fully owning the Fuji logo with Atari Games "licensing" it and paying Atari Corporation for its use up until it was sold to Midway years later.
Also, in regards to the original topic and some questions I saw by others -
Nothing in the 2600 hardware is protectable, and patents on TIA have long since expired and there is no bios. The only thing you can't do 2600 wise is use "Atari" or "2600" in a manner that promotes the emulator as if it's an official emulator. I.E. stating "Is an atari 2600 emulator" is more touchy than "is an emulator that allows you to play Atari 2600 games." Atari, Atari 2600, etc. are all still active copyrights.
Regarding the computers, 5200, 7800, and lynx, and Jaguar, the BIOS and related roms for those systems are all still under active copyright. You can not include them with your emulator. Likewise the naming issues still apply for those as well.