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Star Control Creators File Countersuit Against Developer Stardock

The original Star Control developers have filed a countersuit against Stardock in an effort to regain control of the intellectual property.

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Fans of the classic sci-fi video game series Star Control have no doubt heard news regarding the ongoing legal battle for control over the Star Control intellectual property. Back in December, development studio Stardock filed a suit against Fred Ford and Paul Reiche, the original developers of the Star Control games, for an allegedly illegal use of the Star Control property in the team's recently-announced series entry titled Ghosts of the Precursors. Stardock claims that it owns the trademark and publishing rights to Star Control after purchasing them from Atari in 2013, giving the studio exclusive rights to the Star Control brand. The countersuit, filed just yesterday, alleges that Stardock is infringing on Ford and Reiche's legal ownership of the Star Control license.

Who Owns The Star Control IP?

The legal dispute between the two parties involves a number of very specific details. First, Accolade licensed the rights to publish the classic Star Control games from Ford and Reiche back in 1988. When Accolade was sold to Atari in 1999, those licensing rights reportedly stayed with the company until Stardock purchased the Star Control trademark and publishing rights from Atari in 2013. Stardock claims that this purchase granted the studio control over the Star Control trademark. Ford and Reiche, who develop games under the studio known as Toys for Bob, disagree, claiming that licensing rights to the IP belonged to their original development team and not the original publisher. They posit that the original licensing agreement with Accolade actually expired in 2001, at which point all rights to the brand reverted back to the original developers; furthermore, they assert that Stardock has no license to publish any of the classic Star Control Games. With this in mind, Ford and Reiche are reportedly seeking not only an injunction against Stardock's future sales of Star Control games, but also a vacation of the series trademark and a return of control over the gold masters and source code of both Star Control and Star Control 2.

"Stardock seems to think not only are we not the creators of Star Control, but they claim to have the exclusive rights to sell our games and otherwise use our alien races, ships, narrative, and other creative materials without our permission," Reiche said in a statement. "This is why we felt compelled to file our counterclaim today to stop Stardock’s theft of our games, copyrights, and the universe we created for ourselves and our fans."

Ford and Reiche feeling "flat out mad"

This ongoing legal conflict is currently affecting the development of two separate games: Stardock is working on Star Control: Origins, a game making slow but steady progress toward release, while Ford and Reiche have been working on Ghosts of the Precursors, a follow-up to Star Control: The Ur-Quan Masters that has been met with excitement from fans due to the involvement of the original development team. Beyond these two games, the issue has also affected the availability of the original three Star Control games, the likes of which have been pulled from GOG at Ford and Reiche's request.

According to a blog post written by Ford and Reiche, both developers have "tried to be reasonable and settle the problem quietly," but after Stardock took to the matter to court, the team became "flat out mad."

Like with any legal matter, the details aren't for the likes of us to decide. It may be quite some time before the situation is resolved, and there's no guarantee that either side will meet with a satisfactory agreement. Until then, all series fans can do is hold out for future updates from either Stardock or the team at Toys for Bob.

Edit: this story was updated on February 24 to address a number of factual inaccuracies regarding the current status of the Star Control trademark and licensing rights.

Guides Editor

Kevin Tucker is a core component of Shacknews' powerful guide development team. For questions, concerns, tips, or to share constructive criticism, he can be reached on Twitter @dukeofgnar or through e-mail at kevin.tucker@shacknews.com.

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