Stardock owns Star Control and is planning an "XCOM-like" reboot


I don’t like Stardock either, but those blog posts look disturbingly manic. Those make it look like they are trying really hard to get some internet aggressive democracy mob thing going. Yuk.


Brad’s update from yesterday:

He also posted a bit in the GOG forums.


While I’m an outside observer, this is kind of sad. Every since the Stardock’s acquisition of Star Control from Atari and announcement of Star Control: Origins, Brad’s been gushing about Paul and Fred. There are several posts here of him trying to encourage them to make a true sequel to Star Control II, despite what they were doing with Origins. He seemed to idolize them a bit, so it has to be a little bit disheartening to be in a public legal slapfight with them.


Oh, this looks fun. Remember playing the ‘arcade’ mode in SC2 a lot back in the day.

The little wireframe mesh around the planet, to signify gravity I suppose? was a great addition.


That’s called PR.


Sure, that’s why I qualified what I meant by being an outside observer. I’m not privy to all the details or know how much of one side is correct vs the other, etc.

But I was referring more to comments Brad made in the years since Stardock first acquired the license from Atari, not his comments now following the legal dispute. I don’t think Brad professing to be a scifi fan or a Star Control fan all that time ago was a PR maneuver to head off legal battles years in the future.


This is true to a point (IANAL, but I believe public statements carry weight in contract law), but that same relative dismissal of Stardock’s/Brad’s statements should be leveled at statements from anyone; blogs, posts, tweets, whatevers are done by people with the express intent of eliciting a response. That “anyone” includes Paul and Fred. Without knowing any insider information, I think the best thing to do is hope everyone comes out of this smiling, even if it’s “off screen.” Of course, hopes, prayers and $5 gets you a coffee at Starbucks.


Bob and Fred sure are being shits about an IP – which they no longer own – they’ve allowed to lie fallow for 25 years.


My gushing about Paul and Fred isn’t apt to stop even if we are saddened by this recent, and frankly, unexpected change.

I’ve had four years of nothing but positive interactions with them.

I definitely didn’t expect to have to spend part of my Monday addressing whether or not a 25-year old DOS game that’s been available for sale for years can still be sold or not.

In the meantime, I remain optimistic that something will be worked out and they can focus on their Ur-Quan masters related game.


I feel the exact opposite: I like Brad and Stardock, but as I posted in this thread long ago, Brad’s earlier description of the rights acquired by Stardock seemed inaccurate to me, so I’m not surprised that Paul and Fred are annoyed and are asserting their rights.

I do think both parties are talking too much publicly about a legal matter that hopefully they can find an amicable solution to the situation. I’m pretty bummed about it, as I felt both a new/old take on Star Control were very welcome (and I still feel that way).


Notwithstanding what I said above about not speaking publicly about these things, that’s a pretty good update, and it makes Stardock’s actions seem completely reasonable in the circumstances.


It seems hopeless to parse forum statements because of all the confusion between ownership and licensing and IP and distribution.

The original dispute seems to be about the sale of the original DOS games. Everything about the new games seems like secondary effects of that dispute.

The weird thing is they said Atari lawyers investigated and confirmed their claims. Wouldn’t it be funny if those lawyers were actually mistaken and simply never found the perpetual license Stardock acquired? It seems plausible given what a mess Atari has been for a while. I’m just speculating and throwing a guess out there.

Or they could be right and we’re just awaiting that proof.


That’s impossible, as that’s what was ultimately transferred to Stardock in the auction.

The position of Fred and Paul is consistent with what I’ve heard for over 20 years and stated throughout this thread. Accolade representatives always clearly stated that they had no ownership rights to the IP other the name - everything else was licensed pursuant to their publishing/distribution agreement with Paul/Fred. Even the manuals to the games identify Paul/Fred as the owners of the trademarks (which covers the names - note that is not the same as the copyright to the content of the games).

I am surprised, and skeptical, at the assertions that the Accolade publishing/distribution agreement both was for a perpetual duration and transferable without consent of the IP owners and that it endured without breach during the periods of financial uncertainty/chaos of Accolade and successor holders of the Star Control name.


I thought Brad clarified that the Star Control Trademark and creative IP belongs to Paul but that the precious games (sale and distribution rights) belong Stardock?

Is this right? Never had Stardock asserted that they own the IP. Only that they owned the distribution rights (perpetual) to the games already made.


No, the trademark belongs to Stardock. Which is why Paul and Fred aren’t calling their game Star Control. And they have this at the bottom of their page:

Star Control is a registered trademark of Stardock Systems, Inc


The Star Control trademark belong to Stardock as a result of the 2013 bankruptcy auction, but I think that’s otherwise what Brad has said in his clarifications, but his earlier posts were not always consistent with your first paragraph as they implied some greater rights to produce derivative products using Paul/Fred’s IP (which Stardock voluntarily elected to not exercise out of respect to the original creators - such as including the original aliens in a new game).

Re: the distribution agreement - see the last sentence in my prior post which discusses some potential issues with the distribution/publishing arrangement - bankruptcy of a counterparty is, in itself, often a default clause sufficient to cancel a licensing agreement and of course the sale from Atari was in the context of a bankruptcy. There also wouldn’t be representations and warranties on the status of that agreement by the vendor to Stardock, given the nature of the bankruptcy sale in which the residual Star Control assets were acquired.


It’s kind of messy, mostly due to the way agreements were done back in the day.

So Accolade owns the trademark and owned the product (Star Control).

They then contracted Paul Reiche (personally) and paid him to create the assets that (EXE, art, source, etc) and that was licensed back to Accolade with Accolade having no claim to own any of that IP.

However, there was an exclusive agreement that said that that IP could only be used in association Star Control which was owned by Accolade.

So even if Accolade discontinued Star Control, that IP was still locked up with it even though it wasn’t owned by Accolade.

You almost need a white board to describe this.

It’s still the model in which non-game software is done but nowadays, the developer typically owns the game, including the name, and the publisher just publishes and may have first right of refusal for future sequels.

So as far as we know, Paul and Fred own the aliens and such. Accolade NEVER had any ownership of any of that. But the IP was tied to the publisher forever anyway which is pretty obnoxious for the developer.

So how do you go about fixing that sort of thing today? Well you get people on the phone and work it out. Unfortunately, obviously, this has not gone so well.

I still think it’ll get sorted out. I just wish it wasn’t happening in the public eye.


Thanks @Desslock and @Profanicus on the clarification.

This much. The public is a bad place to conduct interpretation of law and evidence. Does not reflect well on Paul and Fred. Maybe they feel that they have no venue to get their position heard and have resorted to the court of public opinion instead?

Edit: Professionally, I had been intimidated with a lawyer’s letter before (from someone who wanted to get out of paying a bill, but he went bankrupt anyway through other creditors’ actions). The way the letters of demand are phrased is not for the faint hearted.


Doesn’t reflect well on Stardock either.

The thing about pissing matches is that everyone ends up with urine on them.


are you questioning my power and accuracy?