The Third Doctrinal War -- Stardock, Reiche/Ford, and Star Control


Well if you’re looking to drag things out while making the other side spend money, that’s usually the tactic employed.


There are a couple of holes in the “it’s a defensive lawsuit” argument from SD:

First, the timing is pretty suspect. There was less than a week between P&F’s DMCA and SD’s lawsuit, and I don’t think that was enough time to prepare the 90-page complaint they filed. I think it is more likely that SD’s lawyers were already preparing to sue P&F for trademark infringement, and they just took opportunistic advantage of the DMCAs to paint it as a defensive action.

Second, SD hasn’t yet shown much evidence of the “outrageous demands” P&F allegedly made. I presume that if P&F were making such demands, much of it would have been written/emailed, so there should be plenty of juicy examples showing how unreasonable they were. But SD only showed one email that might fit the bill, sent before lawyers got involved, where Fred said to stop using “SUPER-MELEE”. Even that might have been within his rights back in the Accolade days, given the language in contract addendum 3§1.5, which gave Paul the right to “terminology unique to the Star Control products”.

The irony, of course, is that we’ll probably never know whether P&F would have DMCAed or sued to block the release, if Stardock had just convincingly promised not to include setting elements from SC2 in SC:O. But by dragging the dispute into court, and then “boundary pushing” by putting in Melnorme, Arilou, etc., Stardock was basically daring P&F to try to stop them.

Also, until this went into court, any DMCA would have been limited to a couple of weeks, but once there’s a lawsuit, DMCAs can last until the suit is over. So by dragging this into court, SD actually significantly increased their downside risk.

For these reasons, I’m skeptical of Brad’s claims that the lawsuit was a defensive necessity, and believe that it was more likely an offensive action, intended to pressure P&F into granting Brad the copyright license to the SC2 properties that he’d been asking them for repeatedly over the prior four years. I think he was expecting them to quickly concede, but because he’d made so many bellicose public statements about the case, there was no way he could back down without losing face, so he ended up locked into a game of legal chicken.


Even if we are to take the whole of the “unreasonable demands” Stardocks claims were made, they aren’t exactly unreasonable. From their Q&A

Paul and Fred begin to demand that Stardock begin policing the Star Control community for fan art that they believe violates their rights

This is hardly an atypical request from a rights holder. The community in question isn’t an independent fan community. It’s a forum used by a company to market their products. There are plenty of actual fan communities with fan art that P&F have been happy to let continue.

Really the way this is phrased in the Q&A is incredibly dishonest given that it says “community” implying the entire fan community including sites like UQM, the Pages of Now and Forever, the subreddit, etc.

Paul and Fred begin demanding the removal of features from Star Control: Origins including the ship designer

First how they phrased this in their Q&A is kinda weasley. In a document like their Q&A there’s really no excuse to not list exactly what features. Using a plural and then mentioning one is a common tactic to make a mountain out of a molehill.

They provide no evidence that the demand was to entirely remove the ship creator. Such a demand would indeed be unreasonable. However a demand to police the fan content or provide a DMCA like mechanism for content the company distributes to prevent copies of the classic ships would be totally reasonable.

Paul and Fred begin demanding insider builds of Star Control: Origins for inspection and begin insisting various broad features are their property despite having no right to do so

For the first part of this, that’s not an unreasonable thing to request. The second part of this bullet item is just a vague reference. No specifics, much less proof. Given the line Stardock has been pushing about how the things listed that represent substantial similarly are really claims by P&F that they have exclusive rights to generic elements like space exploration, combined with the lack of examples, this complaint seems to be of the same dishonest nature.

Paul and Fred demand that the DOS games be removed from distribution

Well, yeah. How could this possibly be construed as unreasonable.


Above, I was speculating on why Brad, after purchasing IP valued mostly on nostalgia, would decide to anger most of that game’s fanbase by suing its creators. I wrote what I remember Brad saying publicly about the lawsuit. I tried to stick with that side of the story since that’s how Stardock paints it and it’s how they justify it. However, I don’t agree with their reasoning and I think yours is closer to reality.

I didn’t even mention the other things Brad did to anger the Star Control & UQM communities, since from a PR perspective, they’re basically impossible to justify.


I was watching the trailer to “The Outer Worlds” and I noticed an interesting parallel to this case. In the trailer there’s big text reading “from the original creators of Fallout”. Similar to how Paul and Fred list themselves as the creators of Star Control II. Fallout is of course trademarked by Bethesda. Obsidian is currently owned by Microsoft and AFAIK currently has no relationship with Bethesda or license to use Fallout.

The excuse is often given for this suit that it was necessary to defend the trademark against improper use since not defending a trademark can weaken it. Thus Stardock’s hand was forced by P&Fs announcement. If that notion is correct that calling oneself the creator of a product whose name includes a trademark another party owns is clear infringement, and one has to take action against any such infringement, surely Bethesda will be filing any day now.


From the original creators…not owners etc.

Common sense would indicate you can’t stop people paying claim to their own work if there’s no doubt about it.

SD disputed creator attributes right?

edit- also common sense is not common


Wasn’t the key distinction that R&F called GotP the “spiritual successor” to Star Control as opposed to just saying they were the original creators? “The Outer Worlds” doesn’t go that far, they just say it’s by the original creators of Fallout.

Copied from the OP because I fail at quoting

October 9
Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford announce Ghosts of the Precursors on their new blog at . On the page, they refer to themselves as “Creators of Star Control II” and refer to the game as a “direct sequel to Star Control II.” The website includes an image of the original, Accolade-published box art for Star Control II. They also release tweets stating “Star Control II is getting a sequel,” using the Accolade box art, and using the hashtag “#starcontrol”. (7)

Seems a little more questionable than just announcing a new game from the creators of Star Control.


In fact, for a little while, the announcement website said “direct sequel,” which is much more core to Stardock’s claim than the “creators of…” language.

(EDIT: Didn’t read your edit where you already captured this fact!)


Yeah, “Spiritual Sequel” or “From the people behind” isn’t problematic. “Direct sequel” and “true sequel” to a trademark you don’t own is, as I understand it. Another movie studio can’t make the direct sewing sequel to The Avengers. They can say it’s from the same guy that produced/directed it, though.


As has been stated repeatedly in this thread, the difference is P & F actually own the copyrighted story, characters and content, so they absolutely can make a direct sequel to that game. They can’t use the Star Control name, however.

The correct analogy would be George Lucas just selling the name “Star Wars”, or Stan Lee just selling the name “Avengers” - in those scenarios they could absolutely make sequels to Luke Skywalker/Han Solo shenanigans, or Tony Stark/Thor’s adventures, as long as they didn’t use those trademarked names in their sequels, and it would be the acquirer of the Star Wars/Avengers names which could NOT make sequels.

Fallout’s creators didn’t own any IP related to that game or brand - but nobody can prevent you from just describing your resume.


The situations aren’t identical of course, but the whole kerfuffle about them using the term creators was independent of the use of sequel. It wasn’t like if they said creators but didn’t mention a sequel that’s would have been fine. It was and still is that simply mentioning they are the creators of Star Control II is trademark infringement. The claim of infringement regarding the sequel language was in addition to the complaint about them calling themselves the creators, not an element of it.


Not sure when this started, but I have noticed a lot of the marketing materials on Steam for SC are now heavily annotated with the following:


They’re trademarking the subtitle “Origins”? Good luck with that one…


For comparison: Assassin’s Creed® Origins, Dragon Age: Origins, Road Scars: Origins, Rayman® Origins, Starfighter Origins, Quatros Origins, Quatros Origins™, Bionite: Origins…

None of those games actually trademark “Origins” when used separately as a subtitle.


They haven’t filed to register it, and I strongly suspect that they would have trouble claiming “Origins” generally. I think this probably just indicates an intent to consider “Star Control: Origins” as a whole to be a trademark, in addition to “Star Control” alone.


Yeah, probably. But the ® and TM together make them look awfully desperate.


You didn’t just confuse “creators” with “owners” did you? WAIT!! Yes, of course you did!

There is no law that prevents people from laying credit claim to works. But there are laws which prohibit people from claiming ownership to said works.


No, he didn’t. Thrag’s language was quite precise, and there was no such confusion.


I didn’t confuse anything. You are apparently again the confused one. If you can’t follow a conversation how about staying out of it and stop trying to turn everything into an arguement.


You said:

I was watching the trailer to “The Outer Worlds” and I noticed an interesting parallel to this case. In the trailer there’s big text reading “from the original creators of Fallout”. Similar to how Paul and Fred list themselves as the creators of Star Control II. Fallout is of course trademarked by Bethesda. Obsidian is currently owned by Microsoft and AFAIK currently has no relationship with Bethesda or license to use Fallout.

If you go back to the historical P&F claims, they went beyond just being “creators of…”, which isn’t comparable to the claims made by Obsidian for The Outer Worlds. That’s what I was talking about. If that’s not what you intended, then fine - OK.


btw, here is the video in question. FF to @ 1:20