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


You know, I’m not sure he’s 100% convinced he is in the right. I just think it’s a combination of desperation and his whole mentality of ‘must prevail absolutely in anything no matter what’ combining into moves that comes off as otherwise absolutely baffling. I think it originated from the fact that he didn’t know that a trademark was not the same thing as a copyright when he bought the Star Control trademark. And then when someone clued him in, he realized he had spent a lot of money on a whole lotta nuttin and ran to P&F to beg for the copyright too, and then started everything in a desperate attempt to salvage the situation and just expected he would be able to bully them and the UQM Project into giving him everything in order to avoid a costly lawsuit. I don’t think Wardell actually expected them to fight back at all. I don’t think he’s ever had anyone challenge him before.


He does come across as always getting what he wants, so P&F fighting back is no doubt mightily frustrating. I’m also reminded of the saying that it takes a great man to admit he’s wrong.




I think it originated from the fact that he didn’t know that a trademark was not the same thing as a copyright when he bought the Star Control trademark.

The way it was explained to me was that it IS possible for the trademark alone to entitle the owner to additional rights if the underlying IP is essentially abandoned. If that’s true, I think it’s possible for Brad to go into this eyes wide open w/ some assumptions made based on his previous interactions with P&F in the past.

This would mean that the sudden announcement of “Ghosts of the Precursors” could be viewed as a way for P&F to ‘reactivate the IP’ primarily to challenge assert the non-abandonment for the sake of interfering with SC:O even if they have no real intention to make the game itself.


IMO, he spent good money on a license that had a color of title for decades, probably as a genuine fan, but was shocked when the very personalities that created such a convoluted situation to begin with refused to go along with his enthusiastic “resurrection” of a dead game.

It’s a bit like looking at mud covered house, going “this is fine!”, buying it, only to discover all the reasons the stupid house is covered in mud to this day, and being shocked when the next door neighbors creating the mud have no intent to change anything to help you keep it clean.

He then got into imperious “engineer has done the math and i’m right!” mode and decided to be a Man of Industry and bring a gun to a knife fight, which means everyone grabs a gun. Now there is no going back on whatever illusions he had going in.

Brad was nice enough to provide several keys to Tom to pass out to some of his subscribers; I received one, but haven’t even played it yet, so I can’t tell you if it’s good or bad.

The Star Control license is a pit of snakes tied together in a Gordian knot. The only way it gets resolved is if Brad manages to convince the relevant authorities that his Trademark supersedes the Copyright which (perhaps he can argue) expired; or if P&F manages to finally put to bed the extents and limits of the Trademark in court. A result that leaves things as-is means the writhing monstrosity gets shoved back into the tomb and sealed up to await a future day when a new generation of foolhardy adventures desire to test their mettle and resources. But some game IP are perhaps best left buried.


Copyright can’t “expire” before the term. It has to be explicitly abandoned by the owner (to make the work public domain). It does need to be explicit, and P&F were clear they were not rejecting it with the open code project.


I’m not arguing the would/should/could of what actually happened. The “solution” for Brad is for a court of law to declare the Copyright abandoned (you’re right I should have said abandoned rather than expired), whatever the justice of the claim. And while there is no reason to believe a court would do this on the face of the matter, there is still a non-0% chance of that outcome, all the sideline cheerleading notwithstanding.


This is why I kinda don’t feel like there’s a good guy or a bad guy in this. This is an IP dispute, it’s millions of dollars in lawyers, and it’s not done anyone any good. So much stubbornness- but if neither side was stubborn they wouldn’t have had the successes they had.


It’s hardly stubbornness to say “nope” when someone claims to own your work. Defending in a lawsuit brought against you isn’t stubbornness. Not taking a “give me everything plus a quarter million dollars” settlement offer isn’t stubbornness. The settlement agreement offered by P&F hardly reeks of stubbornness.

When it comes to the suit in general the notion of “both sides are bad” is a completely false one. Even moreso when it comes to talk of stubbornness.

If I told you I owned your house because I found the prior owner’s deed in a file cabinet in a storage locker auction, would you consider it stubborn not to accept my ownership and to actively fight against my claim?


Is this the house he abandoned 25 years ago or the one he currently lives in? ;)


While I don’t want to focus on the analogy, whether the property had been used or not is irrelevant if they still own it. So I don’t think it would be stubborn in that case either to not simply hand over your rights.


For sure. Was just making a joke as opposed to arguing against your point.


I laughed, but I figured I’d address it too since the issue of abandonment gets raised a lot.


P&F refused to even discuss removing the use of the trademark on their blog post until Stardock sued, so their stubbornness really did force the lawsuit. From what I recall of the emails, they were not exactly diplomatic about it, either.

P&F were also suddenly making a lot of demands to see confidential internal builds, and not to use any terminology from Star Control 2, even stuff like “Super Melee”.

Everything after the lawsuit was filed points to P&F as (by far) the more reasonable party, but it’s pretty clear that at some point they got sick of playing nice with Stardock and dug in their heels quite stubbornly. I don’t blame them, given Stardock’s behavior, just saying that “stubborn” seems like a perfectly cromulent adjective.


This is a weird way to frame it as Brad has been the ultimate stubborn one in all of this. He wanted to have his way 10000% and it blew up in his face when it turned out that F&P had no reason to just give him the copyright or buy the trademark from him. Which is when he went around trying all kinds of underhanded schemes to steal the rights, which frankly, in my eyes, leaves me empty of sympathy for him. Hell P&F offered multiple times, even in the settlement phase to try and avoid all of this, to hammer out a deal saying that both of them can make a Star Control game and neither gets in the way. All of them stemmed from a foolhardy crusade to have everything his way.


I’m not sure how point 2 is stubbornness, or at least stubbornness in the ‘insistent beyond good sense’ meaning traditionally associated with the word… If they were concerned about copyright infringement by Stardock, who had at that point already engaged in it, then they had good reason to be insistent on those points.

And can you provide these emails? Though not wanting to change the post doesn’t particularly indicate stubborness in and of itself because IIRC, with how Trademark law works they had a pretty good argument that their original phrasing was descriptive, which falls under fair use.

EDIT: They don’t seem to be in the court documents, unless they’re outside of Stardock and Reiche’s emails to each other. They go up to September 29th, which are marked as ‘3 days ago’ before the GotP announcement went up.

EDIT2: Also Stardock originally calls Ghosts of the Precursors the ‘True Successor to Star Control II’ as well. Also in my same dive in this, Stardock began selling SC1, 2, and 3 as their own games, which uhh, would presumably make P&F pretty reasonably unwilling to give in to Stardock’s demands.


I just believe Brad truly believes he owns what he says he owns, the same way P&R do. That’s why they’re going all the way on this. The best option would have been a settlement, but well, at least one side was too stubborn for that. So here we are, where most likely no one truly wins in the end.

Brad did finally run into someone just as stubborn on lawsuits as he is and able to fight back, and this is what happens when that happens.


He totally doesn’t. He even originally admitted he didn’t, which is why he asked P&F if they could license him Star Control 1 and 2 originally. And then when they refused to because they were making their own game (and said as much) and he suddenly told them he owned everything and he was being NICE offering to be licensed instead of just freezing them out and then set about doing stuff to steal the rights, like coercing the UQM Project, who were granted portions of the copyrights, into giving them and the trademark up to Brad. If he truly believed he owned it, he would not need to do any of that.

And maybe you should have read my post instead of ignoring it and pretending none of it happened. Because as stated, P&F were the ones who tried to settle amicably with Stardock, both make their own games without getting in the other’s way, and Stardock refused and set the terms at ‘P&F works for them, gives up all rights, and is owned by Stardock wholly’. The only stubbornness was that they were ABLE to fight back against Stardock trying to bully them out of their rights.


Where is this communication? I’ve seen this referenced countless times by BW, but it’s not in the court documents. Something as important as whether R&F did or did not comply with Stardock’s request to remove potentially trademark infringing content seems like a great exhibit, yet I haven’t seen it. I could be mistaken, of course.


I’ve poured through the court documents and can’t find any specific emails. Stuff gets quoted in filings, but nothing that talks about this at all. The emails haven’t been filed at all, so there’s nothing that can be confirmed from them that I can find. I can’t even find them in Stardock’s filings. P&F’s the only one who really quotes emails. So yeah, I’m interested in seeing these too.