Star Control devs file counterclaim against Stardock over IP ownership
Paul Reiche and Fred Ford, the game development duo behind the early games in the Star Control series, have filed a countersuit against the publisher Stardock, accusing the company of both copyright infringement and unfair competition relating to its use of the Star Control intellectual property.
Reiche and Ford filed the suit in response to the lawsuit filed by Stardock last December against the pair in which the publisher claimed ownership of the classic Star Control titles.
In addition to the two previous accusations mentioned, Reiche and Ford’s counterclaim asks the court to declare them the owners of the copyrights for the first two Star Control games and to cancel the trademark owned by Stardock that they say was improperly renewed.
Both complaints seemingly stem from one core disagreement about the ownership of the Star Control IP and serve as a painful reminder of exactly how messy game development IP rights can get.
Stardock purchased Atari’s rights involving Star Control at a bankruptcy auction in 2013. The lawsuit filed by Reiche and Ford say that purchase included only the trademark rights to the Star Control name and partial copyrights for the Star Control title Star Control 3 published by Atari (then known as Accolade) in 1996.
The two parties publically butted heads last December when Ford and Reiche accused Stardock selling copies of Star Control and Star Control II on Steam, GOG, and its own website without permission. The original developers claimed Atari had lost its rights to publish classic Star Control titles or use the IP when the original 1988 license agreement expired in 2001.
That expiration, according to Ford and Reiche’s recent lawsuit, caused all rights to the classic Star Control titles to revert to the developers when Atari (then Accolade) failed to pay the creators the minimum royalty payment agreed upon in the document.
At the time of that earlier disagreement, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell explained that “many assets were transferred to us including the various publishing agreements to the Star Control franchise,” saying that, in short, “the classic IP is messy.”
Shortly following that public dispute, Stardock filed a lawsuit against Reiche and Ford, claiming ownership of the classic Star Control titles. This latest filing from Reiche and Ford is a countersuit to claims accusing the company of both copyright infringement and unfair competition relating to its use of the <i>Star Control</i> intellectual property.
Among other things, Reiche and Ford’s counterclaim is seeking injunctions against Stardock for using their copyrights improperly, exemplary and punitive damages, and a declaratory judgment that the duo owns Star Control, Star Control II, their independently released Ur-Quan Masters title, and the Star Control characters used in Star Control 3.