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September 27, 2020, 04:11:33 pm
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News: Paul & Fred have reached a settlement with Stardock!

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1  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: June 11, 2019, 05:10:08 pm
I think that the response given by R/F when approached by Stardock about SCO was very similar to the response given by R/F when they were approached by Accolade about SC4. "No" was meant to be their initial position, not their final answer; R/F were willing to let Stardock use their materials, for the right price.

I am skeptical of this.  Paul's emails to Brad (ca. Sep. 2013) do not suggest to me that he is inviting an offer; they seem like flat refusals, full-stop:

Quote from: PaulReiche
Fred and I are just not comfortable handing over our world to be developed by others.  We’ve been discussing this for almost 20 years and we’ve always regarded a return to Star Control as our dream project – something we’d work on as soon as we found the opportunity.  I know this will be a disappointment for you and your team, but Fred and I still have a Star Control plan and we’re not ready to give it up yet.

I appreciate your point; I saw it as a difference in style rather than in substance, but you may well be correct.

Quote from: PaulReiche
"[W]e think it[']s a better idea for [Accolade] to move on to an entirely new fiction and style of game, either under the trademark Star Control or an entirely new line. Personally, Fred and I would prefer the latter, but it's entirely up to you, and your team.

Such a split would benefit Fred and myself, because we believe that over the long haul the Star Control universe has value significantly in excess of what you can offer us, and some day we'd like to explore those opportunities. By accepting your proposed deal, we would lose this chance forever.

Thank you, George [MacDonald, Senior Producer at Accolade], for your ongoing support of Star Control, and please express our thanks to the SC4 team as well. I hope that the new vistas which open up in the absence of the SC universe represent to your team an exciting challenge and creative opportunity, and not a bummer.

It took less than a month for the parties to agree on a framework which became Addendum No. 3.


It's worth noting that at the time the SC4 contract was signed, the sales term of the original (exclusive) 1988 contract was still active (per P&F's countercomplaint, the royalties did not drop below the $1000 trigger point until years later).  Consequently, Accolade had a much stronger negotiating position than Atari would a decade or more later, after that agreement had expired.

From what I recall, a large component of Accolade's strength in the 1997-98 negotiations was that SC3 had performed so poorly -- despite a decidedly more Solomonic approach than that of Stardock, Accolade simply couldn't justify paying R/F what the two thought Star Control was worth (either for a license, or for the copyrights themselves). The end result was that Addendum No. 3 gave R/F less cash, but more rights to the underlying IP.

The real question: will we see Ra-Gar in a future game? And, if so, whose??
2  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: June 11, 2019, 04:58:44 pm
I'm really not sure at this point. I really doubt that Stardock would let the terms of the settlement go public unless it was a win for them.

I agree -- as such, things are not looking great for my bet here. However, as Stardock has long held that R/F has no copyright interests whatsoever in SC1, SC2 and SC3, that the settlement should affect those games' availability at all is a concession to R/F.


Which likely means they've now seized some of the SC2 aliens for their game, gained some kind of financial interest in P&F's new game, or both.

Just to be clear, my wager is on the former. Stardock would have little incentive to settle in a way which would leave it open to another lawsuit, so I suspect that Stardock's past sales of the Classic games (and the purportedly derivative SCO, for that matter) have been legitimized and Stardock's use of R/F's characters -- including, without limitation, the Ur-Quan, the Orz, the Yehat, the Spathi, the Syreen, the Arilou Lalee'lay, the Chenjesu, the Melnorme (f/k/a Mael-Num), the Precursors, Commander Hayes, and the Earthling Cruiser -- and other IP has been retroactively licensed by R/F.
3  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: June 10, 2019, 08:10:20 pm
Anyone wanna place bets about what the terms were, before the terms leak?

I am normally loath to engage in rank speculation, but I am also too much of a contrarian to let this go. Consider GOG: they had separate counsel from Stardock, a separate contract with R/F, and were not even part of the May 24th stipulation. We have every reason to think that R/F could have settled the case against Stardock but continued litigating against GOG.

Though there might not have been all that much litigating left to do -- the parties had reached the end of fact witness discovery, R/F had survived a motion to dismiss, and there was no indication that a counterclaim (by GOG, against R/F) was forthcoming. Yet R/F let GOG walk away without ever filing a responsive pleading ... why?

My assumption is that either GOG paid R/F to settle their claims; or that someone -- Stardock? a malpractice carrier? -- paid R/F's attorney fees, leaving R/F with no loss for GOG to indemnify.


Pretty much betting on status quo. Copyrights in SC1 and SC2 safe with P&F. Trademark and original copyrightable elements of SC3 with Stardock. Stardock withdraws all Trademark applications for the SC2 alien names. Stardock doesn't sell the classic games on Steam or GOG.

I think that the response given by R/F when approached by Stardock about SCO was very similar to the response given by R/F when they were approached by Accolade about SC4. "No" was meant to be their initial position, not their final answer; R/F were willing to let Stardock use their materials, for the right price. Stardock would have known this had Atari shared the SC4 materials, but alas, Stardock was only purchasing SC3, so SC3 was all that Stardock got. This is an assumption, again, but if Stardock had never seen Addendum No. 3 (regarding SC4) or the emails with GOG (regarding SC2), Stardock's reasonable response to R/F's refusal -- a friendly attempt to delineate the parties' IP rights -- may have been seen by R/F as an attempt by a new publisher to reopen an IP dispute which R/F had already resolved in writing (twice!). (Not that this explains Stardock giving R/F the OK to go ahead with GOTP on 7 Oct 2017, and then complaining that R/F announced GOTP two days later.)

Consider Stardock's position as of May 14th, when these direct settlement negotiations were getting underway. R/F had just prevailed on two contested motions, bringing their overall record to 5-0. Every time there was a close legal issue, R/F came out on top. Since that email was sent, R/F should be feeling much more confident of their legal position.

Putting aside the more fantastical elements of Stardock's complaint -- that R/F were not the creators of SC1 and SC2; that UQM downloads were counterfeits tricking consumers into thinking that they were playing Stardock's game -- what was Stardock accusing R/F of doing wrong at this point? Maybe there had been a "Playmate of the Year"-type argument that the original GOTP Announcement should not have included a copy of the SC2 PC box art, but that would require that we be generous and assume that any liability premised on the Announcement survived Stardock's signal-boosting campaign, and that the parties' course-of-conduct and the box art's ownership/licensing status permitted Stardock to make such a claim. Either way, by May 20th, Stardock had all-but disavowed this line of attack. What was left?

Defensively, Stardock's situation was even worse. A good argument here could have protected SCO from DMCA claims, or gotten some of the "armchair lawyers" off of Stardock's back. Yet, despite countless opportunities both in and out of the courtroom, Stardock never presented any kind of convincing explanation of why it was in the (legal) right. Unless, of course, you agree that my forthcoming, Westeros-based computer game does not need to be licensed, as it could not possibly infringe on the copyright of a book, written on paper in 1996. And that my new Spider-Man comic also does not violate anyone's copyright, as it takes place on Earth-6091, a totally original part of the Spiderverse: you have never met this Peter Parker before.

Further, in attempting to defend SCO from allegations of plagiarism, Stardock copied the author of Sixty Years Later: Coming Through the Rye by suddenly insisting that SCO was not a prequel and by obscuring/removing appropriated character names. Without regard as to how that would have played out in court, this approach risked setting Stardock up for a class-action consumer fraud claim. (Imagine a casual, albeit litigious SC2 fan who read that SCO would be a prequel, saw the Classic characters on Stardock's website, and then purchased a bundle: spending her time and money expecting to return to the fictional reality of SC2, only to discover that she had been tricked.) The best way to avoid the possibility of a second lawsuit and ensure that the SCO framework remains open for future sequels and/or licensed universes? Pay R/F for a license.

Finally, consider the timing. The Electronic Entertainment Expo starts tomorrow. It has been bad enough that Stardock has not been able to promote SCO in interviews without being asked about the lawsuit, now the lawsuit risked interfering with a new crop of games (not to mention Stardock's promotion of unlicensed mods of existing games). A confidential settlement agreement would put an end to that problem. Stardock had expected this lawsuit to be resolved before SCO launched -- now Stardock needed it to be resolved ASAP, at any cost. My assumption is that the code wheel came up KOWTOW: Stardock paid R/F for the rights to use the Classic materials to the extent Stardock has already used them.
4  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Settlement Reached! on: June 08, 2019, 04:10:23 am
A document filed at the Trademark Appeals Board today indicates that the parties have reached a settlement.  Terms are not yet known, other than that P&F are no longer opposing the "Star Control" mark.

Accordingly, and pursuant to a stipulation by all six parties, the Court has dismissed the case with prejudice. From my perspective, this sequence of events ends here.


Yep.  I'll admit that there's a part of me that will be a bit disappointed if we never see a Judge rule on some of the topics we've discussed here over the last couple of years...it would be nice to see where we got it right and wrong.  But I'd rather see P&F get back to making GotP.

Do you really believe that all of the parties would have accepted the judge's rulings as final?

Be seeing you...
5  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: June 04, 2019, 02:49:11 am
They just asked for (and received) the same extension to Stardock's 4th AC deadline, as well as GOG's pleading response.  Looks like we'll have some news by June 3rd, one way or another.

Make that June 7th now.

Does the fun ever stop?!
6  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: May 31, 2019, 06:30:21 pm
I'm also wondering if one of the parties might be motivated to abort Discovery in order to avoid having to turn over documents that contain things they don't want to risk being made public.

Or to avoid sharing in general, now that granular information about the SCO Founders is presumably at issue.

But yes, this is a reasonable possibility: the parties have reached the close of written fact discovery; if the other side has bodies buried somewhere, this would have been the last, best chance to dig them up.
7  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: May 27, 2019, 09:51:40 pm
For those interested:
This is the document on courtlistener, signed by Stardock/Valve's counsel and by F&P's counsel.
They also request an extension on the current limit dates regarding amended complaints, and discoveries by about 1 week, for all parties, from 24 or 29 May 2019 to 3 June 2019.

I'm not sure that the Stipulation would enlarge the time Stardock has to file its Proposed Fourth Amended Complaint. Each party's discovery materials - the responses to other parties' interrogatories, requests for admission, and requests for production - are owed to the other parties. Stardock's pleading is due to the Court.

EDIT: See the update from Elestan, reflecting a subsequent, all-party stipulation, below.

Personally, I would not be surprised if this pending deadline was part of the impetus for this round of settlement talks. Federal jurists love awarding pyrrhic victories - they're harder to appeal - and by dismissing counts 12 and 13 without prejudice, the Court may have actually made more trouble for Stardock. Per the Court's instructions, in order to move forward, Stardock would have to rewrite those allegations to focus on R/F's tortious disruption of Stardock's contractual relationships with a specific, limited group of customers who pre-ordered SCO and whose identities can be readily ascertained. But, after the embarrassing "backlash" quotes from Frogboy's affidavit, it should be clear to NP that Stardock's collected "exhibits" are worthless. NP would be hard-pressed to draft a Fourth Amended Complaint which doesn't have evidentiary problems (assuming Stardock does not want jurors to hear from disgruntled ex-Founders) and open up Stardock to damaging, albeit limited discovery (why was Stardock issuing refunds, anyway?).

Since all parties signed the request, chances are that the judge will order as proposed.

While it may not affect your conclusion here, I am not convinced that the contemplated settlement would resolve the dispute between R/F and GoG. And the Court's Friday message suggests that there may even be a motion to compel discovery brewing. This *finger* may yet survive a little longer...

It's rather unlikely the terms of the agreement will be public, and I must confess I'd love to read them.
Some of them will become public, either by public withdrawal of the TM-requests of Stardock, or withdrawal of the oppositions on those, merely by observance of the public file inspections of the court, USPTO, and other institutions.
Or by the continuation of the GotP project (or the announcement of a new name for the product).

While settlements are often made confidential, it need not always be this way. Just as the parties in this case freely posted (and commented upon) negotiations up until Stardock moved for a gag order, they would be free to resume *telling stories* once the case is over - unless, of course, one (or more) of the parties is willing to pay to keep everyone quiet. So there's hope!

Though in practice, settlements often mean that neither side gets to enjoy its just *desserts*, so it may be that no one would be happy with what she reads.
8  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: May 26, 2019, 12:30:19 am
Even beyond this, I think Stardock is going to have a much more difficult time framing their product's similarities as arbitrary or derivative simply because of their repeated interest in and claimed ownership of the Reiche IP. The "parallel thought" argument is tough to make when you're literally making a game with the same title.

And this sort of thing can be very compelling in IP cases. Consider for a moment Harlan Ellison's lawsuit against Orion over a writing credit on The Terminator over similarities to a couple of Outer Limits episodes Ellison wrote. These similarities were noticeable but not so severe that the studio couldn't play them off as coincidence, EXCEPT James Cameron gave an interview in which he said he got the idea by "ripping off a couple Outer Limits episodes." Once that chain is established, the claim becomes significantly more damaging.

I think it's especially striking when one compares this situation to the "Nicholas Gaunt" case, where the defendants were able to escape liability despite re-using the name of one of the plaintiff's characters. Would that case have turned out differently had the defendants not had documentary evidence showing how they came up with the name independently?

There is no real way Stardock can argue that these similarities are coincidence. Stardock has already laid out the argument that they own the Reiche IP so they can't claim to be unaware of it. They're going to have to double down on the argument that they own it somehow, which seems, frankly, like a ridiculous claim.

This argument is especially frustrating to me because, as I noted earlier, Stardock continued selling the Classic Star Control games after the 25th anniversary tribute (when Stardock purportedly learned that R/F did not create Star Control). I imagine that anyone who purchased a copy of SC1 or SC2 from Stardock in 2018 could discover exactly whom Stardock believes owns the copyright by checking out the title screens.

I'm kind of surprised this is even going to trial. It's a testament to Stardock's lawyers that it wasn't just tossed out. Although that might do Stardock more harm than good in the end, especially if they end up with an invalid trademark and no rights to anything.

Stardock's Fourth Amended Complaint (along with an explanation of what took so long) is due on Tuesday. We'll see if NP bothers filing anything...
9  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: May 25, 2019, 11:37:22 pm

As for the substance of Brad's arguments, yeah, we've already discussed that. I also don't think that F&P claim that they own the concept of hyperspace or the color red, but rather that they own an expression of hyperspace that consists of space permeated by red light that is full of dancing lights and holes in space leading to star systems (and traveling ships). Whether that already constitutes copyrightable expression or that expression should be much more specific (like the shape and the content of the holes, the shape and the size of the lights, which are different between SC2 and SCO), I'm not qualified to answer.


And don't forget the choice of background music!

As an aside, now that the litigation may (sadly) be winding down, I do appreciate you distinguishing between your descriptive views (how you think the case will turn out under current law) and your normative views (how you think the case should turn out). Not everyone has been as direct as you.
10  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Interstellar Frungy™ League on: February 18, 2019, 08:53:59 am
The one thing I wonder about that video is that while it is certainly not a valid example of the use of "Frungy" in commerce, it is labeled as a playthrough of Star Control 2, which might play into claims of consumer confusion in some way?

Would the confused consumer(s) here be the featured player or the viewers? Given how dissimilar the marks are, this may be more of a brand substitution issue than a trademark problem per se.


Just wondering:  Why do you feel it was short-sighted?  Since Stardock is indemnifying them, their interests are aligned to at least some degree.

To some degree.

I think that the potential for disagreement between Stardock and GOG (based on the claims asserted regarding sales of the Classic Games following the end of the confidential GOG-publisher agreement) is straightforward, so I will just consider this from Valve's perspective. While I don't think that there is any obvious conflict of interest in this case, representing a client isn't just about winning or losing one particular case - it should be about advancing that client's interests across the board.

Remember that when NP began representing Valve, Stardock's motion for preliminary injunction was still pending. It's been a minute since I read Stardock's motion, but it basically argued that, as applied to SCO, the DMCA notice-and-takedown process was unconstitutional, as it would allow F&P to issue a sort of backdoor injunction to which they were not otherwise entitled. Let's imagine that this argument was persuasive, and that the notice-and-takedown process was found to be unconstitutional in these circumstances.

Keep in mind that the notice-and-takedown process is a voluntary means by which innocent hosts can gain access to various safe harbors - a way for service providers to avoid liability for copyright infringement claims premised upon the actions of their users. What happens to Valve's safe harbor if F&P are legally restricted from using the notice-and-takedown process?

Sure, it's possible that NP would have been able to thread the needle here - as NP failed to do with Stardock's motion for a gag order - and get a ruling which would keep the DMCA intact while preventing F&P from using it; effectively transforming the safe harbor into blanket immunity. But, once the judge decided to recalibrate the balance Congress struck with the DMCA, anything's possible. She could have just as easily eliminated the safe harbors in this sort of situation (restoring the general rule, under which the hosts would be liable), or reasoned that any ongoing litigation is a red flag in and of itself (thus eliminating the need for any formal DMCA notice). How thrilled would Valve have been to learn that its own attorneys had opened the door to one of those outcomes?

But that obviously never came to be. Consider instead that across the Bay Bridge, Valve is currently litigating the Dota 2 case, which was cited in Stardock's motion for preliminary injunction1 and discussed earlier in this thread (as well as by Denning and Elestan in a previous thread). According to its pleadings, Valve owns copyrights in DotA and Dota 2, which the defendants in that case are infringing.2 The allegedly copied game elements include: (1) characters, (2) visual depictions of fictional locations, (3) musical compositions, and (4) the overall look and feel.

Because Valve is claiming copyright in user-created mods, Valve's claims only work if the "mastermind" rule from the Malcolm X and Innocence of Muslims cases can apply to videogames, even when some of the contributions were made pseudonymously, without any sort of two-way consultation. The copyrightable characters in question are the various hero characters (whose individual backstories are somewhat limited). And Valve was permitted to make out claims based on allegedly similar characters as depicted in advertisements for the defendants' games.

There’s no legal reason that Valve's attorneys in this case cannot argue that each contributor is entitled to a separate copyright on any game element he creates, that Rocky Balboa represents the minimum standard for a character to warrant copyright protection, or that litigants need to provide side-by-side in-game screenshots to demonstrate infringement. But, at best, any inconsistent positions taken by Valve's counsel here will find their way back to Judge Breyer. At worst, if NP's arguments are successful in this case, Valve will see its own arguments used to challenge its claims in a case where it actually has money on the line. Why would Valve want to open itself up to that sort of counterattack (especially if it is indemnified in the Star Control case)?

Having written all of that, as more and more discovery is completed, our ability as outside Observers to understand the issues in this case wanes. It is certainly possible that NP does not plan to advance any of these troublesome arguments (suggestions to the contrary being more PR than substance),3 and will instead rely on creative arguments no one here has foreseen.

---

[1] Stardock used the case to make an argument about the sufficiency of the pleadings, not the substance of the allegations.

[2] Blizzard is also a plaintiff in the Dota 2 case; F&P's position appears to be consistent with that of their corporate overlords.

[3] Though both Frogboy and NP have been pushing the "highly relevant" Street Fighter II case (as described by Krulle above) lately. Among many other things going on in that dispute, the trial court found that a number of the SF2 characters were not copyrightable - the game had been designed with a paper-thin “World Warrior” plot and familiar stock martial artist characters so that SF2 would be immediately accessible to would-be players at arcades.
11  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: February 13, 2019, 08:49:02 pm
Yeah, with that reasoning of Stardock's lawyers, you could not trademark ANY word previously used in a film, book, game, ....
E.g. Skynet (terminator). In Europe/Netherlands it is a registered trademark for an airline (1), telecom services (especially communication over computer networks - like Skynet in the film) (2), parcel service/courier services (3). Many more have been denied.
Since Terminator is older than any of those registrations, ...

Yeah, it's worth a try for them, and some young attorney can thus bill some premium hours to gain experience....

If a young attorney wants to argue for a novel interpretation of trademark law or assert that an asset purchase agreement says something that it does not, well, that is exactly what courts (and administrative tribunals) are for: evaluating legal claims.

But the system breaks down if officers of the court are permitted to misrepresent their evidence. That is what I take issue with.
12  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Interstellar Frungy™ League on: January 31, 2019, 08:45:23 pm
While all the trademark applications are almost certainly going to end up suspended until the main lawsuit is over, Stardock have finally filed an exhibit showing their "use" of the Frungy "Mark" in their opposition.

http://ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/v?pno=91246028&pty=OPP&eno=1 (Exhibit A)

Which is a not an example of use in commerce, shows no connection to Star Control or Stardock unless you already know what the product is, and is probably copyright infringement.

The video the exhibit was cropped from wasn't too hard to find - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oq-HuIYIrds . Go back to part 1 of the let's play series and it's clearly The Ur-Quan Masters and not Star Control II™ at all...

To trade away one's integrity in an act of pure laziness? To oppose a trademark application out of spite? When the application may well be suspended anyway? To misrepresent a seven year old exhibit that, facially, does not demonstrate a use in commerce?

If true, this allegation would be very ... disappointing.

Coupled with what seems to me a short-sighted decision to represent Valve and (briefly) GOG, this may seriously erode the presumption of competence I previously afforded NP.
13  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: January 21, 2019, 08:20:09 pm
So what do you think of the comparison table at the end of the Injunction Junction post? Currently it seems to me that F&P's arguments for copyright infringement in this particular case are very weak. Most of the points they have listed seem to be completely irrelevant, as they are generic concepts, gameplay elements or UI elements, neither of which is copyrightable as far as I know (otherwise why would we have so many video game clones?).

I'm not a fan of that particular argument by P&F either, but the fact that Stardock was poised to release "Chenjesu" and "Arilou" DLCs and included the Zoqfotpik, Frungy, Precursors, Arilou-not-Arilou, etc in the game and the fact that Stardock applied trademarks for essentially everything in SC1 & 2, even Fwiffo, and with the on-going litigation, kind of strengthens P&F's argument.

Without all those stunts, yes, I might sympathize with Stardock on that one argument.

Whether it's pink or purple or blue, it wouldn't change anything. Nevertheless I don't think a general aesthetic can be owned, or at least, such similarity is not enough to make SCO into an unfairly competing product with UQM or whatever other Star Control game there will be on the market.


Would it change your analysis at all if you thought of HyperSpace not as a gameplay element or space operatic scene a faire, but instead as a fictional *place* created by P&F?

It seems to me as though P&F are arguing that HyperSpace is a specific imaginary setting they created - their own unique take on a wood between the worlds - a two-dimensional, red-shifted plane where the Vindicator encounters (or avoids) alien ships, *Nnngn* dance and play, and a certain music plays in the background.

Does this attempt to depict a higher-resolution return to the scene of P&F's story? What about this?
14  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: January 21, 2019, 08:09:41 pm
One thing I haven't seen commented on: https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cand.320268/gov.uscourts.cand.320268.71.8.pdf

Exhibit 8 is the "Bill of Sale" from the bankruptcy, and lists the 1988 agreement without an expiration date. Until 2017, it's not unreasonable for Stardock to have assumed they really did have publishing rights.

The bankruptcy sales contract said that Atari was making no guarantees about the IP, so it was Stardock's responsibility to rigorously check everything; that little summary in the bill of sale is not a substitute for reading the full contract.  Stardock received a copy of the original contract, and if its lawyers didn't verify that there was a continuous record of at least $1000/year in royalties paid to Paul (evidently overlooking the decade-long gap in sales), and didn't notice the "This agreement ends if the publisher goes bankrupt" clause when they were buying it at a bankruptcy auction, that doesn't seem like Paul's problem.

At the very least, the estimated cure amounts should have put the prospective bidders on notice that Classic games might have gone out-of-print.
15  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: September 25, 2018, 01:20:19 am
My own, much less legally savvy summary of the whole situation: http://crimsoncorporation.org/reasons/

I'm not trying to speak for the community, but the Stardock Q+A has an obvious bias, and the UQM wiki has tried to remain neutral. I wanted a resource I could point people at to give a solid summary of why I've found Stardock's behavior so shameful, and why I won't be buying Star Control: Origins.


I try to look at the dispute in terms of discrete analogies.

The bigger moral questions - was it wrong for Stardock to appropriate SC2's hitherto unique depictions of hyperspace and rainbow worlds? - don't really factor into my thinking.

I say all that because I don't really see your Case Against Stardock as "less legally savvy;" it's an approach from a different angle, but a no less meaningful one. Thank you for sharing it with us. Ideally, once all of the facts are known, the path of law and the path of justice will converge. Perhaps that will even happen here.

As far as the "new" legal material you linked to goes, I was struck by how... familiar some of the correspondence was.

Quote
[We own] the rights to the title Star Control, and you[, PaulReiche,] own the rights to the classic background material created for Star Control and Star Control 2. This has created confusion.... To help everyone get maximum value out of Star Control, we would like to unify the Star Control license and make a deal where you get a cut of everything...whether it uses the classic background material or not....

We want to include the classic Star Control background as part of the back story in the new [Star Control] game. As we did in Star Control 3, we would also create additional new background material and continue to expand the Star Control universe....

[We get] different advantages from using the Star Control name and the classic background in the new game. In the first place, the name has recognition value with the buyers, press, and consumers. In a crowded market, these busy people might give the game a second look because the remember the name fondly from previous games. In the second place, the classic background has some recognition value with the consumers and press who were fans of the previous games. This can help us generate good word of mouth from a dedicated consumer base.

However [we] already own the rights to the name Star Control. We can get positive name recognition whether we use the classic background material or not. Thus, or main reason to license the classic background material from you is to help create a good initial impression of our game among the Star Control fan base. And our game must be popular far beyond the Star Control fan base to be successful.

Personally, I like the classic background material. I want to watch the future actions of classic races like the Spathi and the Ur-Quan. I think Star Control fans will also enjoy the game more if we can continue to tell these stories.

Quote
I know the [dev] team would like to meet you and Fred, and we would love to show off the new stuff that we're working on.... You could come down late morning, meet the team, share some lunch....

One could be forgiven for thinking that these emails were from Stardock regarding SCO rather than from Accolade regarding SC4. The same goes for PaulReiche's responses:

Quote
Fred and I created Star Control and we own it - its themes, settings, plot lines, characters, its "essence" as an entity unique from any other science-fiction game. SC3 was created with our permission under the terms of our Agreement with Accolade.

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I appreciate your affection for the material and your team's faith in Star Control. This means a great deal to us, as does our games' ongoing fandom. Nonetheless, we think it[']s a better idea for you and your team to move on to an entirely new fiction and style of game, either under the trademark Star Control or an entirely new line.... [T]he Star Control universe has value significant in excess of what you can offer us, and some day we'd like to explore those opportunities.

Unlike the more modern back-and-forth, this exchange resulted in a licensing deal - Addendum No. 3 - wherein the Publisher paid F&P in order to incorporate the classic background material into Starcon. The letters also seem to confirm that the Addendum was intended as a novation with respect to lapsed Sequel rights, as Accolade admitted to needing a license to "make sure Accolade can plan on using the [classic] material in future projects." George MacDonald, speaking on behalf of Accolade, explained that:

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If we don't publish anything with the classic background for three years, the license lapses.
If we don't publish anything with the classic background for three years, we offer to negotiate in good faith to license the Star Control trademark to Toys for Bob when you want to use it.

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If Accolade ever withholds publication of new Star Control products for 3 years, then we [lose] our chain of options and promise to negotiate in good faith so that you can license the Star Control trademark from us.

It also looks as though Accolade drafted Addendum No. 3 and sent executed copies to PaulReiche for his signature. In an attempt to appear legally savvy, I will note that this usually means that any ambiguities in Addendum No. 3 should be construed in favor of F&P.

It is interesting to me, from a litigation standpoint, that had this lawsuit been filed 20 years ago as Accolade v. Reiche, George and Steve would have been key witnesses for the plaintiff. Accolade's entire case likely would have been built around their anticipated testimony. And since Stardock owns, at most, the same rights once owned by Accolade, their testimony could be just as valuable today. (Like much of the testimony and many of the documents from back then, it also might be incontrovertible from Stardock's perspective.) But did Stardock even know that these witnesses existed until reading the discovery responses? Do George and Steve feel any loyalty towards Stardock? Any affinity with F&P?

In the same vein, if Stardock does start laying off members of the dev team, I would take that as a sign that it is throwing in the towel. The last thing Stardock needs is a new crop of potentially hostile witnesses who can explain exactly which elements of SCO are based on prior installments.
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