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IP dispute over Star Control games and name


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#1 Flojomojo ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 4, 2017 7:47 PM

https://www.gamasutr..._permission.php

Stardock bought the Star Control name (only) from Atari, and are working on a sequel. They don't have the rights to distribute the old games, but they've been listed on GOG for a long time. The owners of the code don't have the rights to the name, which is why free Star Control 2 is called "Ur-Quan Masters."

What a mess! Reminds me of "Coleco" and spot some extent, Atari.

#2 Tanooki ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 4, 2017 9:36 PM

Seems the new owner bought the trademark from dead Atari.  The original code owners of the old games retained that data such as we have the Ur Quan Masters for a good decade plus now, and the trademark owner (gamedock) is trying to claim they own it all and will do with it as they please.  Now those who want to own the games of the past are screwed, they're being pulled tomorrow (5th) from GoG.  Buy it now, who knows when or if it will come back and it's cheap.  Glad I have it archived.



#3 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 5, 2017 12:44 AM

Stardock claims they aquired from Atari a "perpetual, exclusive, worldwide licensing and sales agreement" to Star Control.

Ford and Reiche, the copyright owners, claim that licensing agreement expired long before the transfer of assets from Atari.

I hate it when people say IP is messy. Either the agreement expired or it hasn't.

Stardock seems to think that they should give permission for Ford and Reiche to create a sequel. Stardock admits to licensing the game and paying Ford and Reiche royalties. The sequel is not using the Star Control name, so I'm not sure why they think permission is required. ...Well I guess if they believe they have an exclusive and perpetual license, then they should be the only ones allowed to sell a game with those properties.

Edited by mr_me, Tue Dec 5, 2017 1:13 AM.


#4 Tanooki ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 5, 2017 6:54 AM

Seems to me if stardock has to pay royalties than the game short of the trademarked name is owners of TFB (Toys for Bob aka Frod/Reiche) otherwise they shouldn't owe them anything if they control nothing.  To me it comes off as stardock being overly defensive over something they don't have a solid lock on and then yelling at people on various forums around saying they must show burden of proof.  It doesn't add up at all if TFB gets paid for anything star control (not name, but content wise) is sold.  Also if stardock did owe it all, why not kill off that UrQuan Masters/UQM HD projects as they pull away sales of the original on GoG, etc.  Right now we just have the head of stardock going around making accounts on GoG, Steam etc repeating the same squishy claims and arguing ownership and control demanding proof while not actually backing their own argument up at all while admitting to pay royalties.



#5 CatPix OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 5, 2017 7:56 AM

I hate it when people say IP is messy. Either the agreement expired or it hasn't.

The problem is that BITD you'd licence part of the IP.

You could licence the name but not the game mechanics, the game mechanics but not the game... You could licence the game for a console release but not for releasing on arcade.

This is how the Adventure Island licence was born from Wonder Boy :

Basically the IP owners of Adventure Island were the developers Escape , and the publisher, Sega. But Sega had "only" licenced the character design, names, and the whole title.

So, when Escape ported the game to the Nintendo systems, they reused their game engine, layout, etc... but only changed the sprites and the names, and of course, renamed the game Adventure Island.

A perfect, legal clone.

 

Another example is Mario Bros (the arcade game).

Atari bough the right to make a game port on their system. Without specifications, they were able to make an Atari 7800 port without Nintendo's having anything to say on the matter.

But on the other hand, this contract didn't prevented Nintendo to make a console port on the NES - which could have been a possibility... An amusing one.

 

Another famous example come from Tetris.

This one it more due to the lack of a proper copyright protection is USSR and satellite countries, but it helps understand how many companies had legit claims over Tetris... and Nintendo getting the final word on that is more of them being the biggest company than anything else.

 

If I remember right, the first Western Tetris was a direct ZX Spectrum copy of a Hungarian version, that ran on ZX Spectrum clones - in 1986, an English company visited Hungaria to see if they had any games they could publish on the cheap, and one ofthem noticed Tetris.

So that UK companly licenced Tetris, from the Hungarian publisher (state? I'm not sure. Several satellite countries allowed private companies to operate, usually if they had fewer than 10, 20 or 50 employees).

So after than, Tetris ports were licenced from that UK company or from Hungary, until the USSR realized that there was a market for that game (and money to get) and put Elektronorgtechnica (what a mouthful) with is shortened as Elorg, in charge of dealing with the Tetris licence. (twist of fate : in 2005, Elorg was absorbed by The Tetris Company...)

And basically with Elorg being the facade for licencing Tetris from the USSR, it left all those copyright from Hungaria in a sort of void - they had been legally copyrighted after all.


Edited by CatPix, Tue Dec 5, 2017 8:17 AM.


#6 Flojomojo ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 5, 2017 9:01 AM

CatPix, not sure what you meant re Mario Bros, because a NES port was one of the first games released on that system. Are you saying Nintendo could have done the 7800 version on the NES if they wanted to? :lol:

 

I think this Star Control battle will come down not to who is "right," but who can out-lawyer the other. I'm betting on Reiche and Ford, just because of the feeling they've learned how to fight not being screwed over. Someone should update the Wikipedia entry

 

I am a fan of the Sega Genesis port of Star Control. It has nothing to do with the PC game rights as far as I know, but note their names are all over it and there's a particularly lengthy legal blurb in the bottom left.

DESIGNED BY FRED FORD & PAUL REICHE II

Sega and Genesis are registered trademarks of Sega Enterprises Ltd. Game © 1991 Paul Reiche II & Fred Ford. All other materials ©1991 Accolade Inc. All rights reserved. Ballistic is a trademark of Accolade Inc. Star Wars is a registered trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. Accolade Inc is not associated with Sega Enterprises, Ltd. All product and corporate names and trademarks are registered trademarks of their respective owners. 

 

32443_back.jpg

 

I see that the game's creators have put their names all over the packaging of every other version, too. 

 

32445_back.jpg

 

45257_back.jpg

 

284769-star-control-collection-dos-other.jpg



#7 ubersaurus OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 5, 2017 9:27 AM

So yeah, based on the box text I would wager that Stardock bought the name Star Control but don't actually own the rights to sell the games like they think they do (or to stop the the Precursor game from coming along without the Star Control moniker). Which I'm fine with, since Brad Wurdell is terrible.



#8 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 5, 2017 12:36 PM

The problem is that BITD you'd licence part of the IP.

You could licence the name but not the game mechanics, the game mechanics but not the game... You could licence the game for a console release but not for releasing on arcade.

This is how the Adventure Island licence was born from Wonder Boy :

Basically the IP owners of Adventure Island were the developers Escape , and the publisher, Sega. But Sega had "only" licenced the character design, names, and the whole title.

So, when Escape ported the game to the Nintendo systems, they reused their game engine, layout, etc... but only changed the sprites and the names, and of course, renamed the game Adventure Island.

A perfect, legal clone.

 

Another example is Mario Bros (the arcade game).

Atari bough the right to make a game port on their system. Without specifications, they were able to make an Atari 7800 port without Nintendo's having anything to say on the matter.

But on the other hand, this contract didn't prevented Nintendo to make a console port on the NES - which could have been a possibility... An amusing one.

 

Another famous example come from Tetris.

This one it more due to the lack of a proper copyright protection is USSR and satellite countries, but it helps understand how many companies had legit claims over Tetris... and Nintendo getting the final word on that is more of them being the biggest company than anything else.

 

If I remember right, the first Western Tetris was a direct ZX Spectrum copy of a Hungarian version, that ran on ZX Spectrum clones - in 1986, an English company visited Hungaria to see if they had any games they could publish on the cheap, and one ofthem noticed Tetris.

So that UK companly licenced Tetris, from the Hungarian publisher (state? I'm not sure. Several satellite countries allowed private companies to operate, usually if they had fewer than 10, 20 or 50 employees).

So after than, Tetris ports were licenced from that UK company or from Hungary, until the USSR realized that there was a market for that game (and money to get) and put Elektronorgtechnica (what a mouthful) with is shortened as Elorg, in charge of dealing with the Tetris licence. (twist of fate : in 2005, Elorg was absorbed by The Tetris Company...)

And basically with Elorg being the facade for licencing Tetris from the USSR, it left all those copyright from Hungaria in a sort of void - they had been legally copyrighted after all.

That's fine.  In this case Stardock admits that Ford and Reiche have copyright on the game code and audio/visuals.  Ford and Reiche admit that Stardock has trademark rights on the name.  In this case the license was completely exclusive, worldwide, with no restriction on transfer.  The dispute is whether the license has expired.  Either they have the paper work to prove their claim or they don't.  I don't know if either party is in a position to bury the other in legal fees to try and get their way.  The second issue is, assuming Stardock still has publishing rights, if they can restrict Ford and Reiche from creating and publishing a sequel.  I could be wrong but I don't think so.

 

These things do get messy once people start publishing or licensing things of which they don't have the rights.  That may have happened with Tetris.  Otherwise you get a license from all parties involved or you don't publish.  For example if someone wants to publish coleco's coleco vision donkey kong they need licensing from Nintendo as well as whoever has the rights to the coleco ip.  And if you can't get both of those you can't publish the game.


 



#9 pacman000 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 5, 2017 6:03 PM

Can anyone make sense of Brad Wardell's comment?

"That is incorrect.

Stardock owns the Star Control games. The original agreement that Accolade had which was transferred to Atari and later to Stardock provides Stardock ownership of Star Control and everything related to it except for the IP that was *licensed* to Accolade.

Accolade owned the Star Control games which in turn became the Atari Star Control games and now are the Stardock Star Control games.

At best, Paul and Fred can claim that they have IP that makes up Star Control whose license has expired that would prevent those games from being distributed. However, to date, they've not provided any documentation to substantiate that claim."

Ok... Am I reading that right? He claims to own everything except the IP, but wouldn't it all be IP? The copyrights on the code, the trademarks on the name, that's all intellectual property, right? If the game's creators own only the IP is there anything left for Brad to own? :?

Edited by pacman000, Tue Dec 5, 2017 6:04 PM.

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#10 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 5, 2017 7:16 PM

The "Star Control" trademark would be considered IP. They also claim to own a "perpetual, exclusive, worldwide" and transferable license to sell Star Control. Does that mean they can reuse the copyrighted code/graphics to create a sequel or prevent someone else from doing so? I don't think so.

#11 enoofu OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 5, 2017 8:17 PM

A lot of folks don't consider the IP to be Trademark since Trademarks are dependent on the Country, State, or Province 



#12 Tanooki ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 5, 2017 9:33 PM

Well if we go by what Brad says, he believes since he owns (trademark) the name of Star Control, he owns it, and because he owns it he can sell Star Control.  At face value that maybe true, he can sell Star Control.  The thing is, he's agreeing that Paul & Fred get paid for anything that is sold because it's a royalty. Royalties are paid to owners/controllers of content as part of an agreement for another party (Stardock) to peddle/do something.

 

I think the problem is here Bard is full of it, convinced himself of a lie, or really is confused on what he does and doesn't really control.  Given his payments and own comments, it would be on his part to prove he owns control of all that is Star Control, not just the trademark on the title itself of the property.  He must have paperwork to back his claims up.  As it is now he's going around various popular game forums and making accounts to pop off the same repeated stuff trying to the point of belligerence.

 

Accolade didn't own Star Control, perhaps they owned the name, but they were the publisher for Toys for Bob which own the media assets/code that are Star Control.  If he in fact did buy from Accolade which was sucked up by Atari, the rights, he's basically a publisher, not an owner.



#13 pacman000 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 5, 2017 11:33 PM

History of Tetris, by TSR: http://www.atarihq.c...tetrishist.html

#14 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 6, 2017 4:07 AM

Well if we go by what Brad says, he believes since he owns (trademark) the name of Star Control, he owns it, and because he owns it he can sell Star Control.  ...

. No, he believes that because he claims to have a perpetual, exclusive, worldwide, and transferrable license he controls Star Control and his permission is required for the copyright owners to sell derivatives of their software. This may or may not be true.


A lot of folks don't consider the IP to be Trademark since Trademarks are dependent on the Country, State, or Province 

Not sure what you are saying here. But trademarks are definitely properties, they can be bought and sold. You can debate how intellectual they are.

Edited by mr_me, Wed Dec 6, 2017 5:00 AM.


#15 Flojomojo ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 6, 2017 6:27 AM

A bit more
https://kotaku.com/s...llin-1821028506

This seems like a sticky situation; I don't know how they'll work this out

Edit: and a little bit more, with clearer detail
https://www.rockpape...-series-rights/

Wardell seems likely to lose, based on my outsider, non-lawyer reading of this.

#16 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 6, 2017 7:52 AM

It depends on whether Ford and Reiche can prove the license was terminated during the Atari days. Under what conditions was that contract terminated? Ie. Did Ford and Reiche buy the rights back to their game?

On a seperate note, suppose Stardock has the license and complete control of Star Control sales. Does that give them the right to make and sell Star Control Origins? Does that give them sales rights to the new game Ford and Reiche are creating: Ghosts of the Precursors? I think it depends on what specifically that license contract says, assuming it hasn't been terminated.

Edit:
Once they sort out who can prove what, it's just a matter of negotiating how they are going to split up the money. I'm assuming there's money to be made selling these games, otherwise these guys wouldn't care.

Edited by mr_me, Wed Dec 6, 2017 8:02 AM.


#17 Tanooki ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 6, 2017 8:44 AM

That's what I've read.  It all goes back oddly enough to GoG+Atari+Fred/Reiche.  Atari was very clear when going through their shark tank of lawyers they did NOT have the rights to the game, and then had to negotiate a deal and got the trademark and in tandem a publishing deal with Fred/Reiche so that they games since 2011 could be sold on GoG.

 

"On the surface, it looks like Atari agreed, at least at one point. In 2011, Atari started selling the series through GOG without permission, prompting Ford and Reiche to get in touch. According to them, Atari conferred with its lawyers, confirmed that a mistake had been made and apologised. This led to GOG making a deal with the original creators for the game license and Atari for the trademark so they could continue to feature in the store."

 

That right there.  It's not up for those 2 to prove it, they got it in writing years ago and worked a deal with them, Atari, and GoG to distribute the stuff.  Now you have those potential crooks at Stardock peddling the same games up on just Steam and making bank off them claiming they own them when this issue was hashed out years earlier with Atari and the rightful owners.  It all comes off as Wardell being overly loud and defensive on shaky ground playing to 'you prove it' arguement trying to cover his ass due to the investment in their SC prequel title not wanting to lose it.



#18 enoofu OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 6, 2017 9:05 AM

2011 Agreement may not come in play, since Stardock withdrew from the Agreement, its possible it will revert to the original agreement.

 

We also don't have any nonbias sources on why the 2011 Agreement was made  or what the original or 2011 agreement full text is or where it was submitted.

 

Possible that Stardock, Bob, and other parties may have partial ownership stakes in the coding, story and other related IP not just the Trademark.



#19 Tanooki ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 6, 2017 10:01 AM

Well like I said I think then Stardock has themselves in a position of where instead of demanding things, they need to make public (redacted where/if needed within) the contract that states what they do and don't have rights to.  And then the guys, they too need to show off what their ownership was via the older Atari deal.  They both have to cough something up other than what is there now.



#20 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 7, 2017 8:36 AM

...
 
That right there.  It's not up for those 2 to prove it, they got it in writing years ago and worked a deal with them, Atari, and GoG to distribute the stuff.  Now you have those potential crooks at Stardock peddling the same games up on just Steam and making bank off them claiming they own them when this issue was hashed out years earlier with Atari and the rightful owners.  It all comes off as Wardell being overly loud and defensive on shaky ground playing to 'you prove it' arguement trying to cover his ass due to the investment in their SC prequel title not wanting to lose it.

If they want to stop Stardock from selling Space Control, Ford and Reiche have to go to a judge to get an injunction; they will show they have copyrights. Stardock will then show their perpetual license contract they purchased from Atari/Infogrames. Ford and Reiche then have to show that contract has expired.

For Ford and Reiche to sell Gosts of Precursors, they don't have to do anything. If Stardock wants to stop them they have to convince a judge that they have exclusive control over its sales.

Neither side has to show anything publicly.

Edited by mr_me, Thu Dec 7, 2017 9:00 AM.


#21 PikoInteractive OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 7, 2017 10:23 AM

I had been working on a purchase of IP deal with Atari SA since 2013, nothing came to it until Oct 2017. We bought 60 titles from their Ocean, Infogrames, Accolade, and Spectrum Holobyte catalog.

 

At the beginning when I was doing my research, I had Star Control and even Zero Tolerance on my list (bubsy too, but later went to Tommo, that is another story). I talked to both Brad and Riche, as well as Randell. They both confirmed they owned their IP and that they had only licensed the games to accolade as publisher. Brad and RIchie did mentioned that the Trademark/Name Star Control stayed at accolade. As one member here did, Packaging and copyright notices on the game boot (or credits) are massive clues of who may own what on a game title.

 

So here, Toys for Bob are correct, they own the actual game IP, code, visuals, design etc etc etc etc. The new buyer (stardock or w/e) owns the Star Control name in relation to video games. They have no claim to the code etc and cannot resell the old games without a third license from Toys for Bob.

 

I still should have my emails with Brad/Richie and should be proof that their over all understanding was that they owned the game.

 

Now Stardock, can make a new game similar to Star Control old game, and just call it Star Control because they now own the game and game design,  normally hard to prove copyright infringement (thus why there are thousands of game clones out there)



#22 PikoInteractive OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 7, 2017 10:28 AM

If they want to stop Stardock from selling Space Control, Ford and Reiche have to go to a judge to get an injunction; they will show they have copyrights. Stardock will then show their perpetual license contract they purchased from Atari/Infogrames. Ford and Reiche then have to show that contract has expired.

For Ford and Reiche to sell Gosts of Precursors, they don't have to do anything. If Stardock wants to stop them they have to convince a judge that they have exclusive control over its sales.

Neither side has to show anything publicly.

 

I think it would be easier, just show proof of ownership (like the royalty statements from GOG since 2011, and/or the Atari Agreement) to the stores selling the game and they are ok.

 

What I get from this thing is that stardock basically bought whatever position Atari had on the game publishing with GOG. At most they are entitled to whatever cut was making out of those sales. 

 

For the games to be sold in a new storefront a new agreement has to be made with the new parties.



#23 Tanooki ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 7, 2017 10:40 AM

Those two Piko posts were basically my guess/understanding reading things out there from both sides currently, but I do recall in some years past Eli and I talking on facebook about stuff and Atari coming up and fuzzy bits and pieces so that may have a play in it come to think of it.

 

It's nice to see this refresher dropped as it kind of makes it more clear who appears to really own what and why neither side will relent yet at the same time not go to the court to cut off the other party too.  it would also explain why GoG pulled SC1-3 too because with them being that way it's a hot mess despite whatever the contract says.  It also would show why (and they agree) that F&R get the noted royalty pay on each game sold, but Stardock was the one with the GoG contract to peddle the goods because they own the name and distro rights under said name.  No royalty would be mentioned or paid if the whole of what is SC (outside of name and distro agreement) wasn't owned by those 2 guys.



#24 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 7, 2017 10:41 AM

Noone is disputing Ford and Reiche owns Star Control copyright. You can own copyright and license away sales rights or even development rights. If you license away exclusive sales rights you lose the right to sell your own game.

Accolade had the original exclusive license to sell Star Control. That license was transferred to Atari/Infogrames and Stardock aquired it from Atari. GoG had a sublicense deal with Atari and then Ford and Reiche. Not sure how the GoG deal has anything to do with what Statdock is claiming; the Ford and Reiche position is based on the license Atari held had terminated.

Edited by mr_me, Thu Dec 7, 2017 10:56 AM.





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