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IP dispute over Star Control games and name

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Fred Ford and Paul Reiche now trying to raise money to defend against a lawsuit from Stardock.

 

Gamasutra article

Star Control creators Fred Ford and Paul Reiche are attempting to raise $2 million through a GoFundMe campaign to defend themselves against Stardock, which is suing the pair for trademark infringement.

The legal skirmish began in December 2017 after Ford and Reiche accused Stardock of publishing and profiting from their Star Control titles without proper permission.

Their GoFundMe page

We (Fred and Paul) have worked together for 30 years and have seen almost everything the game industry has to offer, but have never seen or experienced a predatory legal attack like this -- an established, corporate publisher attempting to bully two lone developers into surrendering their most treasured game, characters and unique universe.

 

What I want to know is this: does post-2013 "Atari" turn everything it touches to shit, or does it just seem that way to me?

Stardock acquired the rights to the Star Control series from Atari in an auction back in 2013, but Ford and Reiche claimed Atari forfeited the rights to the franchise a decade before the auction took place, and believe "Stardock has zero rights to our games."

 

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Wow if that isn't some victim playing one sided complaining by those two but is actually more or less legit, Stardock deserves to suffer horribly in whatever way possible. I hope the funds are raised and they can in fact crush that beast.

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Stardock used to be one of my favorite developers. I refuse to buy anything from them now (and that's a rarity for me). This latest fiasco with one of my favorite classic I.P.s was the nail in the coffin. SCREW those guys.

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[deleted]

Stardock's claim is against the way Ford/Reiche is marketing their new game not the game itself.

 

Stardock is also claiming that Ford/Reiche were selling (via GOG) Star Control 3, a game that Ford/Reiche were not involved.

 

Going back to the original dispute, I found out that the original 1988 publishing rights with accolade has a clause saying that tge agreement expires if sales fail to generate $1000 in a year i.e. Accolade stops selling Star Control 1/II. Ford/Reiche claims that happened prior to Infrogames buying Accolade's assets.

Edited by mr_me
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Wow... Just wow. If I had the money or legal abilities I would be at Paul and Fred's side personally until Stardock is sued into submission. Stardock is one Drugge of a company if I ever saw one.

 

This game world means so much to me. At one point in my life working on a sequal with them would have been the ultimate dream job.

 

Geeze... 2 million? Anyone reading this cross your fingers for me. I'm going to play the lotto and if I win I'll cover the check in full.

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I don't have a horse in this race, and definitely I'm no big fan of Stardock, but these two are starting to get really irritating to be honest, in a true copyright troll fashion. DMCA-ing an already released game, which has been on sale for some time is really fishy. Just let it go already and concentrate on your own work. The best way to win this battle IMO would be to release a true successor to original SC games, and let the fans decide which one they prefer. Seeing as Stardock's version was rather bland (but had some following nonetheless) it shouldn't be so hard, even with different name and assets.

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They are getting annoying but at the same time I kind of have to take what they said and wonder if they're being truly right about it. Devil's advocating on it, let's say they are. You have some clowns who picked up virtually nothing of the SC brand other than the actual name and the new assets of SC3 that didn't carry from the prequel. And then them knowing this, they go nuts, make a game, copy the shit out of SC2 all over (seeing that breakdown comparison image) and then try and control through trademark all the various alien names and so forth and I can see why they're being annoying. If you created something of such depth and years worth of story and game writing to get poached that hard through creative interpretation you'd do anything to make them suffer and lose any attempts at profit out of sheer spite and revenge tactics. Normally patent, copyright, trademark, even web domain forum squatter trolls piss me off and I rarely see or want to bother to see their side of it. But this is one of those cases I'm thinking it could very well be justified as it doesn't seem to be just some smash and grab for cash. I really wish we could see every piece of submitted evidence from both sides, be the fly on the wall in particular when the originally shady sale of what was deemed star control for sale was the day ink hit paper. I'd love to know who really is lying here or stretching things extremely. They can't both be right.

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Well, yeah, this is definitely not a clear cut case, in fact one of the more convoluted I've ever seen. I read that earlier, detailed write up and it seems that perhaps the right is on their side but it's also much more tangled, since they actually have been working with Stardock for many years and who knows what internal stuff went on. It truly is one where you'd basically had to be there to know what really went on.

 

It's easy to kind of fall for the original-devs-hard-done-by and perhaps it's true too, so I was sort of siding with them, but then we don't really know...and now I think they just went too far with this DMCA. I'm sure die hard fans will defend them but this move got them a lot of bad rep from the neutrals, at least judging by comments I've seen elsewhere. And how exactly is it going to help them with their game? It just seems like something done out of spite.That other game has launched, it wasn't too great but also not a disaster, had lots of favourable reviews from both critics and gamers and so they should just let it go IMO instead of going nuclear with lawyers and such.

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Exactly on the outside we don't have it all and it comes off as a hot mess. They did work together, then it appears Stardock did something related to piss those 2 guys off, and they both went their own ways making their own things. The two who seemingly do control the franchise other than in name and the new assets of the unloved SC3, so they can freely do this. Being smaller, they have to be nastier and more sneaky which doesn't make them look so hot publicly, but you do what you have to do when it's a guy against a company with lawyers. And even in that case they still seem to have the upper hand in ownership despite what stardock keeps trying to pull off with their likely misbegotten goods they have no rights to.

 

I normally would agree with you but I think it was a nasty sneaky and justified move with the DMCA which normally I'd not be in support of, but if you can't get anywhere despite seemingly owning something while another abuses it, you make them waste their money and efforts by shutting the door shut on them peddling illegal goods. If the courts took their site and have since the DMCA take down happened and so far is upheld, it leads me to believe the courts do believe Stardock is in the wrong more than I did before. Either way whoever is right here, anyone not following or totally outside of the loop at all would like you said, feel it's a bad rep for the 2 who did it as they look no better than patent trolls. It definitely was done out of spite, but also I would think to protect what those 2 believe are their property that is being stolen and peddled to line a crooks pockets. I think they feel if they can shut them out, then get out the real star control in everything but name, then they'll put them in their place which may be the case.

 

The thing is with you saying just let it go and leave it would be like someone making a new Super Mario Bros game but calling it Super Jumpman Bros and copying all the characters, general assets, audio, namesakes and the rest, but doing their own very samey stage design and telling Nintendo leave it alone, no one will care. Yeah, that's never going to happen. If you don't play the role of the dick and guard your IP you're leaving a legal opening to show you don't care so much which can leave doors open for future abuse.

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It's actually not at all complicated. Accolade and then Atari had a license from reiche for Star Control the game and all the assets within, with Accolade owning the name and Reiche owning the actual scenario, characters etc. this was expanded to include Star Control 2 and all the returning assets used in Star Control 3; after a while the rights reverted back to reiche. When Atari republished the old games on GOG they had to get an agreement with the original creators to share the profits.

 

Stardock bought the Star Control trademark, which is to say they bought the name and the new assets from Star Control 3. I don't think they realized this at the time, and despite what Wardell has claimed the original creators had nothing to do with Origins other than saying "don't use our stuff in it and we won't care." He then proceeded to make a game that apes Star Control 2 and uses those original Reiche characters, sues them claiming full ownership of everything despite the clear paper trail that says otherwise, and releases his game in the middle of the legal battle knowing that he is likely using infringing assets. A DMCA is well within Reiche's rights, and the court's admonishing of Stardock for doing what they did is telling.

 

If you really want to see how shady Stardock has been, take a look at the proposed settlements. The Stardock one is an absurdity that no one in their right mind would sign onto.

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@ubersaurus

That's a good roundup of the issues as I understand them.

 

The "proposed settlement" is an extortion demand, not a compromise.

https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2018-03-22-star-control-legal-battle-intensifies-as-alleged-settlement-offer-surfaces

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I take a very simple, self-centered view of the case: Reiche and Ford have made some of my favorite games going all the way back to stuff like Archon, and if they say they want to make a new Ur-Quan Masters game, I would definitely like to see that. Stardock doesn't really make games in which I'm interested, but if they're somehow standing in R&F's way then I'm not on their side.

Edited by Duke75
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uber thanks. I didn't want to step into that unless I was misinterpreting a few things there as there's so much shade going on with the back and forward. I had a feeling stardock just had the new SC3 assets that were unique plus the name Star Control itself, nothing more really. Then yeah, they go and basically blindly rip off almost directly, and in cases directly, Star Control 2 since 3 was crap. If anything I think it's sickening how they've attacked and smeared the real owners, yet I love their pit viper crap of letting those dogs release that thing to then shut them down after the fact to cost them a ton of cash for being crooks and frauds.

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It's over, they settled amicably, the games are back in the store, and the trademark is in the hands of Stardock.

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I guess as the post says on the site ( https://www.dogarandkazon.com/blog/2019/6/8/unexpected-message-from-space) more info will come of this during E3. I'd like to know beyond trademark alone on the word title Star Control has been settled. I saw plenty more complaining about the aliens, worlds, ship models and the rest. Stardock from what I guess we could see was trying to claim far more, but seemingly just had a trademark. So is that where it sits or is there more? I'd like to know as I liked the franchise, at least the first two, so I'd want to know where to go from here if I got another game from that word under the SC name or otherwise.

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Here's the details of the settlement: https://www.dogarandkazon.com/blog/2019/6/11/the-only-way-to-win-is

 

One thing not mentioned is that Fred and Paul are working on stuff for Activision again, so this window they had to work on their UQM sequel full time has passed for the foreseeable future. I think they're barred from talking about it for two years under the agreement, but at the same time they won't have anything to actually show until past that point anyway, they said elsewhere online.

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@ubersaurus thanks for posting that — like the games themselves, it’s smart and funny. Also a good reminder that while lawyers are useful blunt instruments, it’s preferable to work things out as human beings with mutual interests whenever possible. 

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Wow nice link up there and read the whole thing.  We knew of bees and mead, but really that breakdown is fantastic as it dodges all the legalese into a nice beautiful easy description for the layman.  That could not have possibly turned out any better in any form possible, especially if the shark tank in suits had their way.  The whole one around oddly worked, almost too well.

 

I'll have to re-consider my blackballing of SC Origins as it did look mighty nice and I had it saved for a stretch before it released on GoG and de-listed my wishlisting.  If they're all care bear snuggly and helping each other out, good.

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