After reading about the conflict between us and Stardock, several people have asked the reasonable question, "Why can't you guys just work this out?" In early October 2017 we tried to do just that, exchanging email with Brad Wardell. In these communications, Fred and I defined our idea of a 'win-win' solution...
(Oct. 6, 2017 email from Paul to Brad Wardell) “… It is important that our players are not confused about which game they are getting, so we need to clearly distinguish our respective projects. That separation should fall along our respective rights, Stardock having purchased the Star Control trademarks and Fred and I owning all the IP rights to the works we created.
As we've said to you several times over the past years, we do not want Stardock to use any of our IP, and that remains our position today. To avoid consumer confusion, we must also pass on the DLC option you proposed. Despite your suggestion below, you do not have a license to use our IP. All rights to our work reverted to us long ago. You (and Atari) previously acknowledged same. Further, time and again you have asked for a new license, notwithstanding our consistent rejections. Kindly do not use our IP in your game. If already added, please remove it before release.
We too wish to see both projects succeed and are confident that with reasonable efforts on our respective parts, we can avoid any perceived conflict or confusion between them. …”
Initially both sides made moves toward compromise. Our blog now includes the attribution “Star Control is a registered trademark of Stardock Systems, Inc”. We describe Ghosts of the Precursors™ as “a sequel to the Ur-Quan Masters”. We no longer use the #starcontrol hashtag. Stardock removed images of our alien races from their website banner and they changed "SUPER-MELEE" to "Fleet Battles" in Origins.
But earlier this month we received an unfathomable settlement offer from Stardock. Paraphrasing from legalese, it requires…
- Fred and Paul must surrender all their IP rights to the classic Star Control games to Stardock.
- Fred and Paul never again use the words “STAR CONTROL” or “GHOSTS OF THE PRECURSORS” or “THE UR-QUAN MASTERS”.
- For the next 5 years, Fred and Paul do not work on any game similar to the classic Star Control games.
- Fred and Paul issue a public apology to Stardock.
- Fred and Paul never again challenge Stardock’s rights to STAR CONTROL trademark or STAR CONTROL 3 copyright.
- Fred and Paul pay Stardock $225,000.
- Fred and Paul never again call themselves the “creators” of the classic Star Control games.
And if their intent wasn’t clear enough, Stardock has now also filed for the trademarks:“The Ur-Quan Masters”, “Melnorme”, “VUX”, Pkunk”, “Ilwrath”, “Chenjesu”, “Androsynth”, “Spathi”, “SUPER-MELEE”, “Syreen”, “Ur-Quan”, “Orz” and “Yehat”.
Fred and I still believe in the ‘win-win’ scenario for both studios and both games, but given Stardock's recent actions, we seem headed into a world in which many hundreds of hours and many MILLIONS of dollars are spent on legal actions. Those hours and that money will be lost – not spent on making both games cooler, more beautiful, more fun -- and ultimately that hurts players like you.