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Stardock ends Star Control IP dispute with "amicable settlement"

Over a year ago, Stardock found itself embroiled in a dispute concerning the ownership of the Star Control intellectual property brought on by the original creators. The company had bought the rights to the franchise back in 2013 after Atari had gone bankrupt, which led to the liquidation of assets. Unfortunately for gamers, the ensuing battle between Stardock, Fred Ford, and Paul Reiche III saw Star Control: Origins disappear from Steam for about two weeks earlier this year before being reinstated.

However, it appears that the entire issue has been resolved thanks to a single phone call between the parties and leaving the lawyers out of the equation - a measure originally floated by Stardock's Brad Wardell back in 2017. In a post on Ford and Reiche's blog, much in the way of common ground was established which ultimately paved a way towards resolving the battle over Star Control. While the actual agreement itself has not been published, the blog outlined many details, which included:

  • The terms are not confidential. We won't be publishing the text of the agreement, but we are free to describe all of its contents.

  • This is honestly and truly an amicable settlement. Not only are we settling the lawsuit, but we’ve decided to support each other’s development so that the fan community gets two great games.

  • There is no 'loser'. All sides win, because we are no longer burning money, creative energy and the goodwill of our fans.

  • No money changed hands. We’re not only halting the lawsuit, but we’re committed to supporting each other’s projects and working together to rebuild the cracks in the fan community.

  • There is a weird paragraph in the agreement that involves bees. Seriously — no kidding. Brad Wardell is giving Fred and Paul honey from his hives and Paul is giving Brad some bottles of his homemade mead. Brad will also be giving Paul advice in how not to be stung. The lawyers thought this was pretty dang crazy. This goes to show you can find common ground in the strangest (and most delicious) of places.

  • Stardock will create new games in the Star Control franchise. Paul & Fred will create new games in the Ur-Quan Masters franchise.

  • To help differentiate the two franchises Paul volunteered to create a few new alien races for Origins.

  • Brad offered to help Fred and Paul with technology.

  • Stardock dropped all its alien name and character trademarks and all parties have dropped their oppositions to each other’s trademarks.

  • Both sides recognize each other’s copyrights and will not challenge them in the future.

  • We were able to come to a very specific understanding on the alien characters and races — how they look and act. Stardock is dropping all trademark registration of the alien names and won't use the described aliens without permission from Paul & Fred.

  • Star Control, Star Control II, and Star Control III will be coming back for sale by Stardock so that fans of all ages can enjoy the classic games in their original form. Paul and Fred will split royalties equally with Stardock.

  • Stardock, and Brad in particular, is supportive of Paul and Fred owning the Ur-Quan Masters trademark. All of us are committed to support the current UQM team and project, including their having a free, perpetual right to use the Ur-Quan Masters trademark for their amazing fan-powered recreation of the original game.

  • Stardock accepts that Paul & Fred are the creators of Star Control and Star Control II. Both parties agree that many other skilled people also contributed their talent and creativity to help make the games so great.

  • Paul and Fred will be changing the name "Ghosts of the Precursors" to something a little less generic -- (come on, you know we can do better!). The precise ‘when’ is unclear, but it is still several years off.

  • The settlement resolved all issues with all the parties, including Valve and GOG.

  • Paul enjoyed Origins enough to spend over 50 intense hours playing the game. He thought the jokes in the alien dialog were genuinely very funny and he was blown away by how beautifully interplanetary travel was rendered. Paul was especially delighted that he could remap the control keys to his beloved SpaceWar! configuration.

  • We are honestly very, very happy with the way everything has settled. No Dnyarri mental compulsion was needed.

With respect to the process, Wardell said that it took "just a couple of hours of talking" to nail down what all parties and added that:

"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 outcome should come as good news for fans of Star Control with the original titles in the series now available for sale once again and the fact that there is more content to come in the franchise, with Stardock, Ford, and Reiche starting collaboration on a new title this fall.

Disclaimer: Neowin's relationship to Stardock

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