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Battle over Star Control franchise escalates, settlement offer leaked online

Series creators claim Stardock has made “unfathomable” demands

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Star Control 2 box art Accolade
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Paul Reiche III and Frederick Ford, who maintain that they are the creators of the classic Star Control franchise, are being sued by Stardock for trademark infringement. These two groups are at odds over a pair of competing games currently in development, both of which claim to be sequels of the original series.

The situation has escalated this week with Reiche and Ford posting what they claim to be the details of a proposed settlement offer delivered by Stardock’s legal team. The two men say it would require them to surrender their rights to the franchise to Stardock, would prohibit them from making a similar game for the next five years, and would force them to pay Stardock $225,000 along with a public apology and other accommodations.

Reiche and Ford called the offer “unfathomable.”

After first refusing to confirm that a settlement offer was sent, Stardock told Polygon the following: “Paul and Fred’s representations are not accurate. However, the settlement discussion was protected by confidentiality, which Paul and Fred violated and then misrepresented and we are not at liberty to discuss it. We have made every effort to be respectful to and adhere to the preferences of Paul and Fred.”

According to court documents, the conflict began when Stardock purchased rights to the Star Control franchise from an Atari bankruptcy auction in 2013. CEO Brad Wardell indicated that his team was considering a reboot of the franchise, inspired by the classic title Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters. Stardock announced that reboot, Star Control: Origins, in October 2016.

But one year later, in October 2017, Reiche and Ford announced their own game. It is called Ghosts of the Precursors, and the pair describes it as a direct sequel to Star Control 2.

Several months after that announcement, Stardock filed suit. In a legal response, Reiche and Ford maintain that they alone hold the relevant rights to produce such a game, and that Stardock’s claims are invalid.

The settlement offer, which Ford and Reiche say was transmitted on or around March 6, would put an end to any costly legal proceedings.

“Fred and I stand 100 percent behind what we said in our post,” Reiche told Polygon by phone. “We did receive a settlement offer. [...] We haven’t yet decided if we want to print it, but we have a suggestion. How about you call [Wardell], who’s saying it’s dishonest, and ask him to prove it? It’s his settlement offer. He has absolute rights to share it, and if he’s the one saying it’s dishonest, let him produce it because we’re totally, completely fine with people seeing it verbatim.”

Stardock declined to share the settlement offer with Polygon.

Court documents reveal that just last week, on March 15, Stardock amended its complaint against Reiche and Ford. It now claims ownership of the rights to the name “The Ur-Quan Masters,” which is the official subtitle for Star Control 2. In the past few months, Stardock has also applied for 20 new trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, including one for The Ur-Quan Masters. They include a second, new trademark for Star Control in addition to the one purchased from Atari. The most recent was filed on March 8 for the Yehat, a pterodactyl-like race found only in the Star Control games. Stardock likewise declined to comment on those filings.

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