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News: Paul Reiche and Fred Ford want to continue the story they started when they created Star Control II — The Ur-Quan Masters. «Happy days and jubilation!» «But wait!» «There is something wrong here... something which makes my sheath retract and my talons ooze.» «Please, Captain, we need your help!»

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Author Topic: My take on Stardock  (Read 33334 times)
Serosis
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #60 on: January 23, 2018, 11:07:57 pm »

What I really don't understand here is why people, none of whom have seen all the contractual paperwork (it's possible even Brad hasn't), insist that they already know the legal status of this IP.

It's simple. You don't make bitchy public blog posts when you know for a fact that you can take it to court and win.
Then send DMCA takedowns of all 3 Star Control games on GOG and Steam, only to have that reversed by Stardock.

And after that you go radio silent for a month and a half. (And counting.)

In my eyes it looks really bad for P&F.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #61 on: January 24, 2018, 04:08:04 am »

Just to be clear (note, I’m not a lawyer):

Stardock does NOT own the classic characters or lore.  As far as we are aware, Paul and Fred do.  However, the characters, lore, and ships were exclusively licensed, in perpetuity, to Accolade and in turn Atari and then Stardock.

Thus, Stardock could have used them for Star a Control:Origins but didn’t for a number of reasons including Paul asking us not to.

But Accolade always owned Star Control. It was always Accolade’s  game. Paul licensed content that made up Star Control (it’s not a publishing agreement, it’s a licensing agreement) but it was never owned by Paul or Fred.

That doesn’t diminish their contributions in the least. But the IP situation, while messy when it comes to the actual characters, is not confusing when it comes to Star Control itself.  The federal and I ternstion trademark rights to the Star Control franchise are owned. Y Stardock. And a trademark is not about the name of the product alone.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 04:10:33 am by Frogboy » Logged
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #62 on: February 25, 2018, 05:51:30 pm »

Stardock has always been a pretty suspect business. Seems like they have the same lawyers as the Druuge.

You might have some suspicions when they're saying "we love the creators of Star Control" while at the same time saying "they are not the creators, and they don't own anything".

Really the most insincere part is the amount that they've been talking about creating this supposed sequel with the creators' blessing, when it seems they've barely been in contact. Over the past few years Stardock reached out to them a few times to get any kind of co-sign -- working together on a sequel, working together on a 25th anniversary release, licensing the ships and races -- and Paul and Fred have declined at every turn. Paul and Fred wouldn't even so much as give an interview for Stardock's anniversary PR blast.

Stardock has done everything they can to try to co-opt the goodwill associated with the original games. At what point do we accept that the original creators want nothing to do with him? Stardock is just the guy who bought Star Control 3 from Atari.

And now that push has come to shove, he's going to go into a courtroom and say they didn't create it -- Accolade did. You can read the claims in their own words here:

https://www.polygon.com/2018/2/22/17041632/star-control-stardock-brad-wardell-lawsuit

You won't hear him claim that here, though.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #63 on: February 25, 2018, 10:30:20 pm »

Stardock has always been a pretty suspect business..

If  you have specifics to back that up, that line or immediately following would have been the place to mention them. 

Ironically enough, I can think of plenty of specific criticisms of Stardock's business practices.  I find it fairly surprising that you couldn't come up with even one.

Quote
You might have some suspicions when they're saying "we love the creators of Star Control" while at the same time saying "they are not the creators, and they don't own anything".

I certainly do have suspicions!  I have suspicions that, first of all, you fabricated the first quote - I find it very unlikely you would be able to find, anywhere, anybody from Stardock referring to Paul Reiche and Fred Ford as "the creators of Star Control" (although you certainly will find Stardock saying they love what Reiche & Ford created, which has entirely different legal consequences), and second, I have suspicions that you don't understand lawyers or courtrooms or how they work.

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Really the most insincere part is the amount that they've been talking about creating this supposed sequel with the creators' blessing, when it seems they've barely been in contact.

Really?  And yet:

Quote
Over the past few years Stardock reached out to them a few times to get any kind of co-sign -- working together on a sequel, working together on a 25th anniversary release, licensing the ships and races -- and Paul and Fred have declined at every turn. Paul and Fred wouldn't even so much as give an interview for Stardock's anniversary PR blast.

First, Stardock is trying to put life back into the Star Control properties they purchased and Paul Reiche & Fred Ford are refusing to assist, and this is somehow Stardock's fault?

Second, that's not "barely in contact".  To say nothing of the fact that there are multiple documents that have been made public demonstrating the repeated contact over the years between Stardock and Paul Reiche & Fred Ford.

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Stardock has done everything they can to try to co-opt the goodwill associated with the original games.

They paid for what legal rights were available and put money into making a new game.  Are they not allowed to capitalize into what they bought?  Should nobody have been allowed to buy anything?  Would you prefer to have Star Control sitting in legal limbo for the rest of forever?

Quote
And now that push has come to shove, he's going to go into a courtroom and say they didn't create it -- Accolade did.

You won't hear him claim that here, though.

Oddly enough, this is not a courtroom, and has no bearing on whether the argument has any validity.

As has been said earlier:

Bottom line: Leave lawyering to lawyers or I will think of you less because of it.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #64 on: February 25, 2018, 11:16:48 pm »

Nobody is trying to falsely attribute something to Stardock, so pardon me if I lost something in the paraphrasing. But I find it odd how defensive you are on Stardock's behalf.

First, I feel pretty misled about the contact with the creators. Maybe I shouldn't have assumed. Just that when Stardock is including how much he's talking to Paul and Fred in his PR blasts, I didn't imagine that meant that Paul and Fred were rejecting any kind of collaboration, not even an interview.

Maybe it was my bad for making that assumption.

The thing that's way more suspect is the level of public respect for Paul and Fred.

But in the legal proceeding, it's:

Quote
Later, in 1992, Accolade developed and published Star Control II: The Ur-Quan  Masters, a sequel to Star Control I under the 1988 Agreement, and incorporating new characters of space ships and alien races (hereinafter “Star Control II”). Similarly, Reiche and Ford contend that he/they contributed certain undefined material and/or programming to Star Control II, in collaboration with numerous other authors and contributors, to assist Accolade in the development of the game

You can't tell me there isn't a huge disconnect between the PR and the reality.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2018, 03:20:23 am by rosepatel » Logged
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #65 on: February 26, 2018, 03:41:34 am »

But I find it odd how defensive you are on Stardock's behalf.

See my post in the other thread.  I think it's perfectly believable that both sides here think they're the good guys and it annoys me to see people jumping to emotion-based conclusions and getting really hostile on the basis of impressions as opposed to facts.

Quote
But in the legal proceeding, it's:

Quote
Later, in 1992, Accolade developed and published Star Control II: The Ur-Quan  Masters, a sequel to Star Control I under the 1988 Agreement, and incorporating new characters of space ships and alien races (hereinafter “Star Control II”). Similarly, Reiche and Ford contend that he/they contributed certain undefined material and/or programming to Star Control II, in collaboration with numerous other authors and contributors, to assist Accolade in the development of the game

You can't tell me there isn't a huge disconnect between the PR and the reality.

It's lawyer tactics.  Throw everything you can and see what sticks.  It would not surprise me at all to see the court decide that the balance of evidence does indeed indicate that Paul Reiche & Fred Ford can accurately be described as "the creators of Star Control".  The point is that without actually looking at all the evidence ourselves, we can't know that, and getting angry about a lawyer putting a point up for question is silly.  Having lawyers question points all up and down the line and supply evidence for or against is how these sorts of arguments get resolved.

For my part I am perfectly fine with granting Paul Reiche & Fred Ford full and exclusive credit to everything marvelous about SC2 - I think in my original post on this board (or maybe it was on PNF) I pretty much said that my understanding was that Stardock could only have bought the "Star Control" name and not much else.  I took Paul Reiche's characterization of the legal situation at face value at the time.  Since then, I've seen more than a few datapoints indicating that Stardock does have certain justifications in believing that it has bought a bit more than that.  All of which adds up to the conclusion that there IS cause for a legal case, and there IS reason to need a court to look things over and find some sort of settlement between the two parties, and putting every aspect of the situation up for close examination will make for a more complete picture for the court and - hopefully - a more accurate and just final settlement.

Assuming they can't work it out on their own, which I really wish they would.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #66 on: February 26, 2018, 06:07:15 am »

It would not surprise me at all to see the court decide that the balance of evidence does indeed indicate that Paul Reiche & Fred Ford can accurately be described as "the creators of Star Control".

Literally NO ONE would be surprised if Paul and Fred are legally the creators of Star Control. Everyone knows it. I'm not just talking about fans, or even super fans who have poured over every detail. It's also people like Greg Johnson who worked with them. It's also in the instruction manual from 25 years ago. Paul and Fred's authorization is a key reason that the open source UQM project exists. And of course, the least important piece of evidence is that Stardock repeatedly  called them the creators.

... Until recently.

It's lawyer tactics.  Throw everything you can and see what sticks.

First off, not all lawyers would do that. Plenty of lawyers would concede basic facts to focus on the legal issue. For example, given the mountain of evidence that Paul and Fred own the copyright, and that Accolade obviously acquired one of those rights by contract (namely publishing and distribution), did that right terminate before being purchased by Stardock? (BTW, unless Paul and Fred fabricated a huge piece of the 1988 agreement, the answer is probably yes it did.)

Second of all, a lawyer isn't this independent powerful body that acts against their client's knowledge. This isn't the first the first time that Stardock has been shady.

Last of all, it stops being a lawyer tactic when Stardock tries to push the idea that Paul and Fred were merely "contributors" in public.

And here's the thing.

If Stardock wants a war of scorched earth where they claim Paul and Fred aren't the creators and barely own a couple lines of old code, that's their right in the dysfunctional legal system we have.

My real issue is that they want to play war while talking out of the other side of their mouth about how they love the creators (sorry!) contributors, and this game is supposedly made with their blessing. It's painfully clear that it is not.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2018, 06:13:02 am by rosepatel » Logged
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #67 on: February 26, 2018, 08:07:42 am »

As a quick aside:  Does anyone else find it amusing that Zelnik trashes Stardock by comparing them to Blizzard?  You know...  The same ActivisionBlizzard that are the owners of Toys For Bob and Paul and Fred's bosses?
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #68 on: February 26, 2018, 08:45:53 am »

My real issue is that they want to play war while talking out of the other side of their mouth about how they love the creators (sorry!) contributors, and this game is supposedly made with their blessing. It's painfully clear that it is not.

To be fair, not all of the evidence is open to the public. Only the exhibits that P&F and Stardock have decided to share.
There could be damning evidence on either side, we do not know.

What we do know is that P&F aren't fighting the game itself, they're fighting about the use of their characters within said game and how the ship creator could be used to recreate their ships.
Which is a moot point because Origins was created specifically so that their characters wouldn't be used. But they got all in a tissy because they saw an Ur-Quan Dreadnought and Spathi Eluder
hanging from the ceiling in an early shot of one of the character's communication screens. Because references and/or homages are not ok I guess, says the designers who shaped a game full of references and homages.

Then there is the ship creator business, and I hope they realize that's a lost cause, because if they were to win that case then all in-game content creation systems would be liable no matter the game.
Their ships have been recreated in Sins of a Solar Empire, specifically the mod called "Seven Deadly Sins". Not to mention games like Timewarp, The Ur-Quan Remasters, the Stellaris mod, and an attempt to remake Star Control in a 3D engine by Damon Czanik.

Oh, and they also want Stardock to stop selling all the old Star Control games. Fair enough.



Stardock's case against against P&F is that they have no right to associate themselves and their new game with the Star Control mark. And this unfortunately does mean that the lawyers have to question the title of "creators of Star Control II" to cover all of their bases.

P&F launch their blog post about Ghosts of the Precursors where they explicitly said:
Quote
...we are now working on a direct sequel to Star Control II® -- The Ur-Quan Masters, called Ghosts of the Precursors™.

On October 6th, 2017. That clearly violates the use of the Star Control mark.

The odd part about this though is that someone within Stardock was holding the lawyers back until P&F decided to file a DMCA claim to take down all three Star Control games from GOG & Steam. Look at the dates.

Here is the blog post where they announce that they've taken down the games from Steam & GOG. December 4th, 2017.

Here is the filing of the case, December 8th, 2017.

Which leads me to believe if P&F weren't being so hostile towards Stardock then none of this would have happened.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2018, 08:50:20 am by Serosis » Logged

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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #69 on: February 26, 2018, 02:04:20 pm »

Probably they have a problem with Stardock explicitly advertising the ability to create SC2 ships in it as I think Wardell has in the past (think of other sci-fi franchises - could he directly say "you'll be able to recreate X-wings and the Enterprise with the editor", even if it's possible?)  One point that may be ambiguous is including exact duplicates of some of SC2's more unique ship abilities. But I agree that as a whole Stardock certainly has the right to include an editor and this isn't one of their stronger points.

Quote
P&F launch their blog post about Ghosts of the Precursors where they explicitly said:
Quote
...we are now working on a direct sequel to Star Control II® -- The Ur-Quan Masters, called Ghosts of the Precursors™.

On October 6th, 2017. That clearly violates the use of the Star Control mark.
I'm not sure if it's that open-and-shut. Trademark law makes provisions for fair use (such as when referencing someone's trademark is deemed necessary for describing the product - not a lawyer but it seems debatable), and it's a game they are very closely connected with and own the IP for. They didn't name the game "Star Control", which would be a definitive violation, but I'll admit there is some ambiguity on the sequel point especially with the unusual TM/copyright split. Regardless though, they later changed to Ur-quan Masters - likely Stardock asked/told them to do this behind the scenes when things were escalating.

My guess is that there will be a settlement that will allow them to associate with Star Control 1/2, but within certain limitations and with qualification of Stardock's TM ownership. Like maybe "the official sequel to the Ur-quan Masters from the creators of Star Control (tm) 2" (there's no way Stardock's "creator" point will hold up).

Quote
The odd part about this though is that someone within Stardock was holding the lawyers back until P&F decided to file a DMCA claim to take down all three Star Control games from GOG & Steam. Look at the dates.

Here is the blog post where they announce that they've taken down the games from Steam & GOG. December 4th, 2017.

Here is the filing of the case, December 8th, 2017.

Which leads me to believe if P&F weren't being so hostile towards Stardock then none of this would have happened.
By Fred and Paul's account, Wardell claimed the right to use their ships and mentioned suing before Ghosts was even announced. Stardock also forced them out of their agreement with GOG, as Wardell has said publicly. It also appears the games were put on Steam without asking them after tensions were rising. Granted we don't have the e-mails, only each party's version of events and Stardock would give their own interpretation of these things. But regardless they have obviously been arguing since at least two months before Fred and Paul went public and Stardock played a part (at the very least) in heating things up. If you just want to reasonably work things out peacefully and keep it from escalating, why insist on taking full control of digital distribution on dubious legal grounds (for a token handful of cash) when relations are already looking rough?

Also, in retrospect Stardock's 25th anniversary post in November sure looks like an attempt to downplay their authorship of SC2 as much as possible to lay groundwork for the lawsuit.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2018, 08:17:47 pm by Mormont » Logged
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #70 on: February 28, 2018, 04:05:41 am »

Okay, so here's what I've gathered after reading way more than I wanted to:

Obligatory Disclaimer:  I Am Not A Lawyer.

* Stardock claims (in #1 here) to have acquired "the Star Control brand, copyright to Star Control 3, the license to the Star Control classic characters, lore and the right to distribute the classic DOS games.  The DOS games are already available on GOG  with Atari listed as the publisher. (2013)"

* The contract exhibits attached to PR's counterclaim (link below) are pretty compelling evidence to the contrary.  They document that Paul's contract with Accolade had some restrictions that Stardock was apparently not aware of.  Some of the specific clauses that seem relevant include:
** Section 2.1 of the contract specifies that the contract term ends when Paul&Fred stop getting at least $1000/year in royalties.
** Section 7.1 of  of the contract specifies that a bankruptcy, such as Atari went through in 2013, automatically causes the contract to terminate.
** And Section 7.2 of the contract says that when the contract terminates after the game was finished, the rights revert to Paul.  I think this includes the license to the SC 1&2 characters & lore and the distribution rights for SC 1&2.

* Moreover, the counterclaim alleges that the trademark was abandoned and lapsed in the early 2000s.  Those of us who were here at the time may remember a flash game that Atari hired a contractor to make over a weekend in 2007 in an attempt to retain the trademark (see the registration page).  However, under the 1988 revisions to the Trademark Act, this would clearly constitute a token use, which would not suffice to reassert the mark in commerce.  However, while the large gap where it was not in use could well cause it to be declared abandoned, I don't know whether that can be done retroactively, or if it needed to be done at the time. I don't think this is a slam-dunk, but again, I'm not a lawyer.

* If these counterclaims are all correct, then all Stardock got from Atari's bankruptcy auction were the non-SC2-derived parts of SC3.  This would make me feel rather sorry for Stardock, because it would mean that they really bought a lemon.  I guess one lesson in it is that they should have insisted on getting the original development contracts from Atari before making their bid.

With that said, I think that Paul & Fred have really not been handling this whole affair very well, and I'm rather disappointed in that.  If everything they claim is completely true, then they knowingly allowed Stardock to buy Atari's assets, without clarifying their own view as to what Atari did and didn't own, even in the private exchanges they had with Brad.  It sounds like he's been wanting the original contracts that the games were developed under for quite a while, and they've only now put them up as part of their counterclaims.  And they should know that publicly declaring that they are working on a "...direct sequel to Star Control II® -- The Ur-Quan Masters, called Ghosts of the Precursors™", when they know someone else thinks they have the trademark to the name "Star Control", is almost guaranteed to provoke a legal response (they've since edited that page to remove the infringing text).  Additionally, with their public statements, they've been making what should have been settled in private a very high-drama public affair, and apparently haven't been willing to talk to Brad directly to de-escalate things.

I will also send a couple of frowns toward Stardock, though.  Saying that  "Reiche and Ford may not have created any of the artwork, animation or characters incorporated in the games, or otherwise substantially contributed to the authorship of Star Control I and Star Control II." is just pouring gas on the fire, and it flies in the face of too much evidence to be credible.  Even if they didn't draw the art themselves, Fred wrote most of the computer code, and it sounds like the artists and composers were under copyright assignment to Paul, not to Accolade.  And trying to register a trademark for "The Ur-Quan Masters"?  C'mon...that's essentially picking a fight with the biggest potential fans of the game you'd like to make.

What I think should happen (EDITED 2018-03-01):

Stardock's claim on any SC1&2 copyright and distribution is really weak, so they should just let those claims go.  They've always said that they didn't intend to use them, the original contract makes their claim pretty shaky, and the money from GoG sales can't be enough to pay the legal fees associated with having that fight.  Brad should concede that PR&FF are the creators of those games and the sole owners of their copyrights, and apologize for saying otherwise.  Stardock should also drop any attempt to register "The Ur-Quan Masters" trademark.  PR should apologize for not showing Brad the contracts that reverted the rights to those games before Brad's company spent a bunch of money.  PR should also apologize for not telling Brad that he thought the "Star Control" trademark might have lapsed

Stardock's claim on the "Star Control" trademark seems pretty strong, though, and PR seems to have already acknowledged that claim on his blog.  PR apologize for saying that he was making a sequel to "Star Control" without getting permission, and agree to abide by the trademark.  He and Fred can use "The Ur-Quan Masters" instead.  If Stardock wanted to be nice, they could grant a license in perpetuity for the use of "STAR CONTROL" in connection to the original SC games.

I think this would put everyone right where they want to be:  SC: Origins can be developed and released by Stardock, PR&FF have clear rights to SC1 and SC2, and can release their new game.  And nobody needs to pay expensive legal bills.  Please folks...we just want to buy great games.  Stop fighting and make them, so we can give you our money.

EDIT 2018-03-01: I've just dug up a bit of new information, which sparked new thoughts:

First, I've just noticed that Stardock filed for a service mark on "STAR CONTROL" back in November, and a fresh trademark application in late February.  In my non-lawyer opinion, this substantially bolsters their trademark argument, because it moots the matter of the old trademark having potentially lapsed; even if it had, Stardock was the first to file to reclaim the mark, and can show that they were already producing a game intended to have that name.  If Paul and Fred wanted to keep them from doing this, I think they would have needed to beat Stardock to filing for the trademark.

Given that, I think Paul and Fred need to be very careful to respect Stardock's trademark, including avoiding saying that they are making a sequel to "Star Control".  I notice that their blog has already removed any statement to that effect, and now says that they are making a sequel to "The Ur-Quan Masters".

Finally, I think that Stardock's attempt to register "THE UR-QUAN MASTERS" can only succeed if they demonstrate that they are actually intending to use the Ur-Quan in one of their games, which I don't think they can do because PR has the copyright on the setting.  I think they should give up on this line of attack.

References:
Stardock Systems, Inc. v. PAUL REICHE III, et al. case filing
Stardock Complaint
Paul Reiche Response
Paul Reiche Counterclaim
Stardock registration for "UR-QUAN MASTERS" trademark and service mark (combined application)
Paul & Fred registration for "UR-QUAN MASTERS" trademark
Original Accolade registration for "STAR CONTROL" trademark
Stardock re-registration of "STAR CONTROL" trademark
Stardock registration of "STAR CONTROL" service mark (special expedited service granted)
Paul and Fred's Blog
Stardock's Q&A on the suit
Ars Technica article on the dispute
« Last Edit: March 07, 2018, 02:26:21 am by Elestan » Logged
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #71 on: February 28, 2018, 04:23:36 am »

Hey Elestan, you did a pretty good job, and I agree with most of it. The TLDR:

• Stardock bought Atari's old contracts, which included Accolade's old contract. In an ideal scenario, Stardock gets to play the role of Atari/Accolade in their agreement with Paul and Fred.

• Accolade's agreement was supposed to expire at bankruptcy, as Atari did in 2013. It also was to expire if no royalties were paid out, as Accolade did in 2001.

• The trademark stuff is more complicated. But it may have expired from non-use, depending on if that Flash game is treated as too minimal ("token use"), and depending on any other evidence of use. 

• Stardock definitively owns the non-SC2-derived parts of SC3. As in the Droog and the Xchagger. Owning a copyright in the derivative work doesn't give you much control over the work it derived from.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #72 on: February 28, 2018, 11:20:39 am »

• Stardock definitively owns the non-SC2-derived parts of SC3. As in the Droog and the Xchagger. Owning a copyright in the derivative work doesn't give you much control over the work it derived from.
Except... there is exhibit 4, the 3rd addendum to the licensing contract between FF, PR and Atari.
page 59 of the counterclaim

In this agreement, Paul Reiche agrees to "the publisher wish[ing] to develop and publish new versions and sequels to Star Control I, Star Control II and Star Control III".
But then, in point 4.1 the time for this addendum is limited. To three years. As we all know, no new Star Control has been developed and published during that time (March 98 (date of signatures) and March 2001).  (SC3 was published 1996, the flash game 2007; StarCon (Star Control 4) was never released in a way that left public traces)
There are some terms regarding "in perpetuity", but referring to products developed during the term of the addendum. So there seems to be nothing worthwhile for Stardock in this, IMHO.
Stardock cannot use this to base their belief of having the right to use the SC1/SC2 IP for a enw Star Control game, as the agreement to allow new products has obviously expired.


And I wish to thank Elestan for the overview and links he provided.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #73 on: February 28, 2018, 08:21:31 pm »

Okay, so here's what I've gathered after reading way more than I wanted to:

My one addition/quibble: why in the world should PR be responsible for providing a copy or other documentation of his SC-related contracts to Stardock when Stardock was purchasing rights from Atari? Did Atari not receive documentation properly from Accolade? Why would Stardock spend what sounds like a considerable sum purchasing the rights to a property in the absence of any legal documentation delineating what those rights are? FF/PR wasn't a party to this agreement and their involvement shouldn't have been necessary.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #74 on: February 28, 2018, 09:15:10 pm »

to that I agree.
Yet, if the documentation is readily abailable, outof courtesy I would provide it.
Also to avoid any transfer of rights which actually do not exist anymore.
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