Stardock, Paul, and Fred Settle Star Control Lawsuits

The Star Control Website has details on the settlement of the long-running dispute between Stardock Entertainment and Paul Reiche & Fred Ford over the rights to the Star Control series. Word is this an amicable outcome that will lead to future collaborations on Star Control content and beekeeping:
Game Developers Stardock Entertainment, Paul Reiche and Fred Ford have amicably settled the dispute concerning the tangled intellectual property rights that surrounded the 30-year old game franchise.

In a statement released by Paul Reiche on their website, Mr. Reiche wrote, "Paul and Fred have offered to volunteer their own creativity to Origins by teaming up with Brad to create some new aliens and plot lines for Stardock's future Star Control games."

The settlement agreement, while itself confidential, expressly makes the terms available to the public.

"Paul and I both insisted to the lawyers that the terms should not be confidential," said Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock. "We really wanted to make sure the fans didn't have to speculate on how we came together on this and that it was genuinely something that resulted in both sides getting what they wanted out of the situation."

The dispute revolved around the murky dividing line between what trademarks cover and what copyrights cover. Stardock claimed the trademarks to the classic series and Paul Reiche claimed the copyrights. The issue came to a head when both parties announced new games that appeared related to Star Control.

After a year of litigation, the dispute was ultimately solved by Reiche calling Wardell directly, bypassing the lawyers, and the two finding a lot of common ground on a wide range of topics ranging from game design to beekeeping.

"The magic trick to resolving this was just picking up the phone and calling each other directly," said Reiche. "Brad suggested this back in 2017 and it worked! By talking directly to each other, we were actually able to put something together that we both liked before all the legal mumbo-jumbo got in the way."

Once the two talked about what each really cared about, coming to a resolution was swift.

"We figured out what we wanted in just a couple hours of talking," said Wardell. "The rest of the time was the lawyers smithing out exact, agonizingly precise, verbiage. That took much longer. Usually these things claim to be amicable but it's just both sides trying to spin things. In this case, it really was amicable."

The agreement itself, in true Star Control fashion, includes a substantial amount of levity.

"We added a section in which I'll be working with Paul on beekeeping. He's going to send me some meade, I'm going to send him some honey," said Wardell. "I don't think the lawyers were particularly enthusiastic about us incorporating some of this into the agreement. I did a tutorial video on beekeeping I was going to send over but got stung in the video, so thought better than to actually send it."

With respect to the specific terms, the classic Star Control games will return for sale on Steam and GOG as they were before, along with the alien music DLC that had been removed while the teams resolved the IP questions.

In addition, the trademark and copyright questions were put to rest with the agreement spelling out the copyrighted IP that Reiche and Ford care about along with the trademarks that Stardock cares about, with each party agreeing to respect these boundaries in their use in the future.

Star Control: Origins is available on Steam and GOG for $29.99. The expansion pack, Earth Rising, is due to be completed this Fall. Stardock and Paul Reiche plan to begin work on the new Star Control game together this Fall.

More information and details will become available in the near future as Brad, Paul and Fred will be hanging out at E3 together and meeting with the press to discuss the future of games, the fascinating yet unintuitive way the legal system works, and anything else that comes up.

To read the full release, visit here.
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Jun 14, 2019, 03:30
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Jun 14, 2019, 03:30
Parallax Abstraction wrote on Jun 13, 2019, 11:50:
Stormsinger wrote on Jun 12, 2019, 19:29:
A more likely explanation is that both sides finally clued into how much they were annoying their fanbase, and finally decided to just let it go, rather than continue to destroy the cash cow. This claim that they're going to work together, I'll believe when I see an actual game come out of it.

Star Control II is my favourite game of all-time and Star Control: Origins was one of my top games of last year but this series is not a cash cow by any means. SC: Origins didn't sell that well, partially because a lot of people don't remember the series (which hadn't had a new entry since 1996) and a lot of those they did buy it complained it was too much like the old games (which is exactly what I wanted but not what most people did.)

Both Stardock and Paul & Fred were making these games more out of passion than for a guaranteed payday and a lot of the fight that they had was for similar reasons. You're right in that they were pissing off the fans (I did a very ranty podcast where I basically took both groups to task for dragging the community into their online pissing match) and I think the nature of this new agreement is an attempt to show the fanbase that they've truly settled this amicably but money is not the primary motivator here. Paul & Fred are wealthy co-managers of Toys for Bob at Activision and Brad Wardell has said before that Stardock makes little off their games division and that their Windows enhancement software basically funds it because it's a business he and his staff want to be involved in. This was never ultimately about money for them, which is definitely a weird thing in the games industry today.

Nice summary. Thanks.
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