Given the recent press on the topic of the legal dispute between Stardock and Paul Reiche and Fred Ford, designers of Star Control I and II, I wanted to take time to make our position clear and address inaccuracies being promoted.
As the need arises, I’ll continue to update this post with additional questions and answers.
Q: What are the issues in dispute?
A: Paul and Fred have been promoting their new game, Ghosts of the Precursors as an official sequel to Star Control. This creates confusion in the market as to the origin of Star Control games which is why we have trademark laws.
In retaliation, Paul and Fred began objecting to the sale of the DOS games being sold online, despite the fact that they’ve been for sale online since before we acquired Star Control from Atari. Their contention is that the licensing agreement for their characters and lore has expired thus terminating the right to sell and distribute the old DOS games.
Q: Why did Stardock file the initial lawsuit against Paul and Fred?
A: We had no choice after Paul and Fred filed DMCA claims against the distribution not only of Star Control 1 and 2 but also Star Control 3 which they admit they had no involvement. The DMCA claims were reversed, but it was clear that our ability to create more experiences in the Star Control multiverse for fans would be at risk if their false claims remained unchallenged.
Q: Why does Stardock claim that Paul and Fred were not the creators of Star Control?
A: Paul and Fred were the designers of Star Control I and II. For many years, however, Paul and Fred have represented themselves as if they personally created the games themselves. We believe this was in an effort to associate themselves personally with Star Control without having the legal right to do so. In reality, it was a great team of talented folks that Paul and Fred gathered together to develop the game. In fact, we highlighted many of those contributors in our celebration of Star Control II’s 25th anniversary: https://www.stardock.com/games/article/485810/star-control-ii-25th-anniversary---on-the-shoulders-of-giants
We respect Paul and Fred’s crucial contributions as well as the rest of the talented team who worked on Star Control.
Q: Who owns the Star Control trademark?
A: Stardock is the legal owner of the federally registered trademark for Star Control.
Q: What does Stardock want out of this lawsuit? Is your goal to put Paul and Fred out of business?
A: Our ONLY goal is to protect our ability to tell more stories in the Star Control multiverse. We remain fans of Paul and Fred and their contributions to Star Control. However, given the confusion they’ve created in the market by promoting their new game as a “true sequel” to Star Control II combined with their abuse of the DMCA system to take down even Star Control games they had no involvement with, we are forced to act to prevent them from continuing to create confusion.
Consider some of your favorite games or movies. Now imagine if someone instrumental to the development of that game or movie went on to claim to be making a sequel to that game or movie without the consent of the owners of that trademark? What would be the result?
Q: But doesn't Paul and Fred own all the in-game IP?
A: Our complaint has not involved any of the copyrights of Star Control 1 and 2. We have operated on the assumption that those copyrights are held by their respective authors. Our complaint is that Paul and Fred have, after a quarter-century and right as the marketing of Star Control: Origins is ramping up, decided to announce a game and claim it is related to Star Control creating market confusion and putting us in the position of having to compete for the good will and reputation that is exclusively held by the trademark holder.
Just two examples where our own box art is used to promote a competing title:
Q: Why did Stardock go after Paul and Fred when it seems you had a friendly relationship to start?
A: We didn’t “go after” Paul and Fred - we were left with no choice once they filed false DMCA claims against the Star Control games, even the one they admit they had nothing to do with. We had been trying for months to work out an amicable co-existence agreement.
Q: Do these legal issues have any impact on the development of Star Control: Origins?
A: Not at all. The team is focused on making the best Star Control game yet and we’re making fantastic progress every week. You can read the latest update on the game’s development here.
For those interested in reading the details, our complete initial filing available online:
Stardock 25th anniversary post documenting the creation of Star Control:
Thank you for being fans of Star Control, and supporting our effort to make a great new game in the Star Control franchise.
And if you have questions that you’d like to see added to this post, feel free to reach out to me directly via Twitter at @kevinunangst
Vice President, Marketing and Strategic Partnerships