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News: Paul & Fred have reached a settlement with Stardock!

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Author Topic: Stardock Litigation Discussion  (Read 53744 times)
tingkagol
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #225 on: August 23, 2018, 05:50:17 pm »

Note, however, that Brad is talking about delaying the release of the DLCs, not canceling them or renaming the aliens.
I don't think that would be an issue considering Wardell said this:

"We're also delaying the release of the DLCs for the classic aliens until we come to some agreement with Paul & Fred."

That's at least an indirect acknowledgment that P&F holds the copyrights for those aliens and that Stardock would need a license to release the DLCs while also alluding the DLCs might potentially infringe on the copyrights contrary to their constant spiel in the prior months ---- All of this assuming Wardell won't do another 180 if things get rocky again in the future.

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I do hope, however, that Stardock realizes that using the names of the classic aliens is a no-win situation.
This is very true. I've no clue what they were trying to achieve with doing that other than trying to get a rise out of P&F.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2018, 11:44:46 pm by tingkagol » Logged
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #226 on: August 23, 2018, 06:49:10 pm »

This is an overly simplistic view, BUT it seems like P&F want to call Ghosts a "Starcontrol Sequel" (I dropped the true part out because maybe they can play nice now) and Stardock wanst to use SC2 aliens in there game which takes place in a different universe that exists within an even larger multiverse. Its seems to me like there is a compromise here somewhere. In the same way that Sony owns Spiderman, but is apart of the larger MCU. It seems to me that if BOTH sides cared about what the players wanted we could have a great game from stardock that includes beloved races from SC2 and opens the door to a larger story, also a sequel from P&F that finally continues the story we all loved. MAYBE if both sides are making enough money  they can eventually collaborate on a game that brings them both together.  From a purely business perspective I feel like both sides have more to gain from working together than they do from battling each other.
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rosepatel
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #227 on: August 23, 2018, 07:46:16 pm »

I'm hopeful they hold enough fond feelings towards the fanbase of their own Star Control games that they won't be petty with little things like that which would be fun little in-game "tickles"

Personally, this is what GOTP is supposed to be for. And what I'm waiting for.
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Deus Siddis
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #228 on: August 23, 2018, 09:02:57 pm »

It seems to me that if BOTH sides cared about what the players wanted we could have a great game from stardock that includes beloved races from SC2 and opens the door to a larger story, also a sequel from P&F that finally continues the story we all loved. MAYBE if both sides are making enough money  they can eventually collaborate on a game that brings them both together.

I believe this scenario you are describing is actually one in which Stardock has no interest in compromise and gets about everything it has asked for. An actual compromise might also include Stardock giving P&F the right to call their game Star Control: Ghosts of the Precursors plus an agreement that sees all rights ceded to P&F after a reasonable number of years, for example.
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Mormont
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #229 on: August 23, 2018, 09:44:45 pm »

It seems to me that if BOTH sides cared about what the players wanted we could have a great game from stardock that includes beloved races from SC2 and opens the door to a larger story, also a sequel from P&F that finally continues the story we all loved. MAYBE if both sides are making enough money  they can eventually collaborate on a game that brings them both together.

I believe this scenario you are describing is actually one in which Stardock has no interest in compromise and gets about everything it has asked for. An actual compromise might also include Stardock giving P&F the right to call their game Star Control: Ghosts of the Precursors plus an agreement that sees all rights ceded to P&F after a reasonable number of years, for example.
Eh, Stardock’s complaints about the “sequel” phrasing make some sense, though the fair use line seems debatable and I doubt the damages are as severe as they say. I think most would be fine with “sequel to Ur-quan Masters”, which is what their blog says now. The problem is the rest of SD’s behavior and PR.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2018, 09:48:28 pm by Mormont » Logged
Death 999
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #230 on: August 23, 2018, 10:14:48 pm »

* Blacklisting the SC2 race and ship names (except for 'Cruiser' - too generic)

I'd say that several others are too generic to be protected, like Skiff, Avenger, Marauder, Fury, Stinger, and Blade (this list not necessarily comprehensive). Also, Juggernaut would be okay. Again, so long as there is no particular resemblance to the earlier vessel.
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WibbleNZ
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #231 on: August 23, 2018, 10:37:56 pm »

* Blacklisting the SC2 race and ship names (except for 'Cruiser' - too generic)

I'd say that several others are too generic to be protected, like Skiff, Avenger, Marauder, Fury, Stinger, and Blade (this list not necessarily comprehensive). Also, Juggernaut would be okay. Again, so long as there is no particular resemblance to the earlier vessel.

Having just looked, "Broodhome" is the only non-generic ship name when detached from its alien race. "Earthling Cruiser" is still pretty generic even with its race name, perhaps that's what Elestan was getting at.
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #232 on: August 23, 2018, 11:26:18 pm »


I believe this scenario you are describing is actually one in which Stardock has no interest in compromise and gets about everything it has asked for. An actual compromise might also include Stardock giving P&F the right to call their game Star Control: Ghosts of the Precursors plus an agreement that sees all rights ceded to P&F after a reasonable number of years, for example.

Stardock getting everything it wants does not need to be a terrible thing.  They initially tried to license the rights to the original aliens.

If the agreement that is forged maintains the Alien names and distinctive natures as property of Paul and Fred and the Star Control TM property of  Stardock, a cross licensing agreement where Paul and Fred are paid by SD for the right to use the Names/races could actually fund Paul and Fred's Game.

Paul and Fred then publish using the Star Control: Ghosts of the Precurser's name  and pay SD for the right to use the Trademark, or have Stardock be the publisher and not even need to worry about paying for the TM.   In the end the fans would get two games.  Paul and Fred would get to keep their story, and StarDock would get get something out of spending 5 years reviving was was basically a "dead and forgotten my most" game series.

One side does not need to lose.   All sides can still win.

I'd rather have three winners.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2018, 11:28:03 pm by Tas » Logged
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #233 on: August 24, 2018, 12:34:50 am »


I believe this scenario you are describing is actually one in which Stardock has no interest in compromise and gets about everything it has asked for. An actual compromise might also include Stardock giving P&F the right to call their game Star Control: Ghosts of the Precursors plus an agreement that sees all rights ceded to P&F after a reasonable number of years, for example.

In what way would this be, a compromise?

Stardock has spent the last 5 years and millions of dollars developing a new Star Control game after having acquired the Star Control trademark and the copyright to Star Control 3 (which is actually registered and has the presumption of validity). 

No one has tried to prevent Paul and Fred from making a game.  But they cannot use the Star Control trademarks without a license any more than Stardock can use copyrights it doesn't own without a license.

Throughout the entire dispute, Stardock has tried to make good faith concessions and do so in a way that doesn't create the impression it is giving up its rights.  For example, Fred asked Stardock not to refer to the combat mini-game as Super-Melee even though all trademarks associated with the classic games (and Super-Melee was present on some of the boxes for example) belong to Stardock.  Fine, Stardock changed it to Fleet Battles.

Similarly, Paul and Fred have said that the human ship looks too much like their Star Trek derived ship.  So below is the new Terran Cruiser:



This has the advantage of looking like a ship that would have come after the player ship and looks a bit more primitive.

The point being, Stardock has made concrete changes in order to try to make Paul and Fred happy.  But fundamentally, it is often hard to know what exactly they think they believe any copyrights that might exist within Star Control 2 includes.

Star Control: Origins didn't just show up one day.  For example, here's the gameplay teaser from two years ago (which was sent to Paul and Fred long before that for their comment):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6ntg47q_cM

Bottom line, if Paul and Fred want to benefit from associating with the Star Control trademarks they need to license it just like if we wanted to have, for instance, the Orz or Spathi or Ur-Quan as depicted (visually as well as their lore, history, etc.) I would presume we would need to license that (in any case, we aren't using the Star Control II lore or characters for the reasons we've mentioned countless times).


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rosepatel
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #234 on: August 24, 2018, 01:30:27 am »

I think the reality is that even if the parties just maintain the non-affiliation that they had all along, they would still need to stay on their own side of the fence. In a lot of ways, the legal dispute was inevitable (but the lawsuit was not). They could have saved themselves a lot of grief with a "memorandum of understanding", and now that's probably where they should go.

Paul and Fred has repeatedly suggested that they would not use Stardock's alleged Trademark, if Stardock would not use their alleged Copyright. Even though P&F referred to Star Control in their GOTP announcement, they did edit it pretty quickly after the fact. Even though Stardock insisted they would sell P&F's copyrighted games, they ultimately backed down after a few months. Even though Stardock began to use the same aliens from SC2 in SC:O, they ultimately pulled back on the aliens a couple days ago. What we're left with is basically where we started: Copyright to Paul and Fred, Trademark to Stardock (plus the derivative Copyright in SC3).

That's a pretty good status quo. It's really the status quo we had back in October. But even with the best of intentions, there's a lot of room to accidentally step on your neighbor's property.

Paul and Fred would necessarily need to be able to refer to Star Control. Legally, there is ambiguity about what is fair use of a Trademark. But a settlement could settle some kind of understanding. "You can call yourself the designers of Star Control. You can call yourselves the visionaries behind the Star Control story. You can refer to your game as a sequel to Ur Quan Masters. Do not call your game a sequel to Star Control. Do not disparage Star Control: Origins, or cast doubt on its authenticity."

Similarly, Stardock is hitting the nostalgia button and drawing heavily on Star Control 2. Legally, there is ambiguity of what crosses the line from copying an idea (fine) to copying expression (infringement); what crosses the line from fair use / de minimis quoting (fine), to substantial similarity (infringement); what crosses the line from copying a scenes-a-faire (fine), to a substantial copying of original expression (infringement). It would be very easy for a settlement to establish understanding here too. "Incidental similarities between SC2 and Galactic Civilizations will not be actionable. The expression of these aliens in SC:O, as of this date and this build, will not be actionable. These other aliens will be removed. Stardock will never use this list of key words from Star Control 2."

The first step is an agreement in principle. It's fine to say be skeptical and say "that sounds good, but what if they use the ambiguity to screw us?" Any good lawyer will navigate those details and turn the agreement-in-principle into a solid contract. And that kind of legal work is worth every penny.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2018, 01:35:31 am by rosepatel » Logged
Elestan
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #235 on: August 24, 2018, 01:39:15 am »

It seems to me that if BOTH sides cared about what the players wanted we could have a great game from stardock that includes beloved races from SC2 and opens the door to a larger story, also a sequel from P&F that finally continues the story we all loved. MAYBE if both sides are making enough money  they can eventually collaborate on a game that brings them both together.
An actual compromise might also include Stardock giving P&F the right to call their game Star Control: Ghosts of the Precursors plus an agreement that sees all rights ceded to P&F after a reasonable number of years, for example.
In what way would this be, a compromise?

I agree that that goes too far the other way.  How about this:  

  • P&F agree to stop using the phrase "Star Control" in their advertisements, except for referring to their own historical role in making the games.
  • Stardock agrees not to use the aliens, ships, characters, maps, etc. from SC2 in its games (including using their names), and to take reasonable measures to prevent the SC:O toolkit from being used to create such elements ("reasonable" being subject to negotiated clarification).
  • Both parties agree that both parties can use music derived from the SC2 soundtrack.
  • Stardock agrees to transfer its pending trademark registrations (other than "Star Control") to P&F, and to affirm that it retains no unregistered common law marks stemming from sales of the classic games.
  • SC3 gets open-sourced as "Kessari Quadrant" under GPL/CC like SC2.  SC1 either gets open-sourced (if the source can be found), or just released as freeware (if not), as "Ur-Quan Battles".  The UQM project can host them.
  • Everyone pays their own legal bills.
  • Everyone gets back to making games.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2018, 01:41:14 am by Elestan » Logged
WibbleNZ
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #236 on: August 24, 2018, 01:58:23 am »

But they cannot use the Star Control trademarks without a license any more than Stardock can use copyrights it doesn't own without a license.

Your entire argument is based on an unproven assertion that "the Star Control trademarks" even exist. There is only one registered mark, STAR CONTROL. Show us the use in commerce of Spathi, Orz, et.al.

From Stardock's Ashes of the Singularity trademark application (and several others, USPTO seems quite fond of the phrase) : "each mark stands on its own merits".


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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #237 on: August 24, 2018, 02:02:23 am »

It seems to me that if BOTH sides cared about what the players wanted we could have a great game from stardock that includes beloved races from SC2 and opens the door to a larger story, also a sequel from P&F that finally continues the story we all loved. MAYBE if both sides are making enough money  they can eventually collaborate on a game that brings them both together.
An actual compromise might also include Stardock giving P&F the right to call their game Star Control: Ghosts of the Precursors plus an agreement that sees all rights ceded to P&F after a reasonable number of years, for example.
In what way would this be, a compromise?

I agree that that goes too far the other way.  How about this:  

  • P&F agree to stop using the phrase "Star Control" in their advertisements, except for referring to their own historical role in making the games.
  • Stardock agrees not to use the aliens, ships, characters, maps, etc. from SC2 in its games (including using their names), and to take reasonable measures to prevent the SC:O toolkit from being used to create such elements ("reasonable" being subject to negotiated clarification).
  • Stardock agrees to transfer its pending trademark registrations (other than "Star Control") to P&F, and to affirm that it retains no unregistered common law marks stemming from sales of the classic games.
  • SC3 gets open-sourced as "Kessari Quadrant" under GPL/CC like SC2.  SC1 either gets open-sourced (if the source can be found), or just released as freeware (if not), as "Ur-Quan Battles".  The UQM project can host them.
  • Everyone pays their own legal bills.
  • Everyone gets back to making games.

You know what's a bummer? We can't discuss settlement offers anymore and Paul and Fred's attorneys have complained when I've even made suggestions of what might be acceptable.  So I can't even comment why we would reject (or accept) such a proposal.

As a reminder, Star Control: Origins doesn't use aliens, ships, characters, maps, etc. from SC2 so it's kind of a moot point. The only ship that I saw anyone complain about was the "Earthling Cruiser" which has been changed to Terran Cruiser with a completely new design.  

The whole point of NOT using the aliens, ships, etc. from SC2 was to leave the door open for Paul and Fred.  This has been posted about for 5 years. It's not some new thing.  We literally created an entirely different universe, from scratch, specifically so that nothing we did could possibly be construed as affecting Ur-Quan universe canon.  And this was, as you know, long before Paul and Fred decided to start trying to use and later cancel our trademarks.

The only position of Stardock's that's really changed is that now that the one thing everyone absolutely understood from the start: Stardock has the trademark to Star Control is being challenged, Stardock is going to do everything it can to strongly reinforce the connection between Star Control: Origins and the classic series as that was the purpose of acquiring that specific trademark.

I can say, broadly speaking, we don't moderate Steam or other modding forums and we don't create ship components that make it easy to create any particular type of ship. We wouldn't set the precedent of moderating Steam workshop or any of the other modding sites.

There's no reason for Stardock to give up any of its trademarks or anything that reduces the connection to the classic games that those trademarks provide.


« Last Edit: August 24, 2018, 02:07:54 am by Frogboy » Logged
Elestan
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #238 on: August 24, 2018, 03:52:05 am »

As a reminder, Star Control: Origins doesn't use aliens, ships, characters, maps, etc. from SC2 so it's kind of a moot point.

Is it no longer using Melnorme and Arilou?

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We literally created an entirely different universe, from scratch, specifically so that nothing we did could possibly be construed as affecting Ur-Quan universe canon.

...and that was fine, up until you said (as I understand it) that the different universes shared a common "multiverse" with SC1&2.  At that point, you were asserting continuity of setting with the classic games.

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The only position of Stardock's that's really changed is that now that the one thing everyone absolutely understood from the start: Stardock has the trademark to Star Control is being challenged,

Sure, and, to be clear, I was proposing that the challenge be dropped.

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I can say, broadly speaking, we don't moderate Steam or other modding forums and we don't create ship components that make it easy to create any particular type of ship. We wouldn't set the precedent of moderating Steam workshop or any of the other modding sites.

Obviously, you can't control what's outside your control, and I'm not suggesting that you be required to go after your customers on external sites.  But committing to not creating or hosting infringing content on the sites you do have the power to control doesn't seem like too much of a burden, especially if for fan content it only had to be done on-notice and not proactively.

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There's no reason for Stardock to give up any of its trademarks or anything that reduces the connection to the classic games that those trademarks provide. [...] Stardock is going to do everything it can to strongly reinforce the connection between Star Control: Origins and the classic series as that was the purpose of acquiring that specific trademark.

Then I think you made a serious error in 2013:  You apparently purchased the trademark without first confirming that Paul and Fred were available and interested in contributing to your efforts.  Consequently, your attempts to reinforce the connection between SC:O and the classic series are serving no useful purpose:  New fans of your game don't care, and a great many of the old ones will consider it illegitimate without P&F's blessing, and will resent you (and not purchase SC:O) as a result.

In fact, it could be seen as causing market confusion, because fans of the old series that purchase SC:O are likely to be seeking a game using the setting and story from the earlier games, and will be disappointed when they do not get it.  In trademark terms, you failed to acquire the assets needed to produce products that would properly incorporate the goodwill inured to the classic series. 
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Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion
« Reply #239 on: August 24, 2018, 04:10:07 am »

In what way would this be, a compromise?

Well bum783 specifically suggested """a great game from stardock that includes beloved races from SC2""" which is really only possibly if P&F gave you a license to their copyrighted material. In that specific case, they need to receive something adequate in return for it all to be called a compromise.

Stardock has spent the last 5 years and millions of dollars developing a new Star Control game after having acquired the Star Control trademark and the copyright to Star Control 3 (which is actually registered and has the presumption of validity).

And so you need to have a reasonable window of opportunity to make back what you have put into this... factoring in inflation, risk, taxes... and then make a profit on top of that. Obviously that will have to be a part of anything you could call a compromise.

But after that, unless you want to make Star Control games indefinitely, allowing the rights you hold to cede back to them might be a good chip to trade during a settlement negotiation in exchange for something you want. That is, long term usage is something that might be of lesser value to you than it is to them, since you have that 5 year head start on GotP. Your interests are naturally more immediate just as theirs are naturally more long term.

But they cannot use the Star Control trademarks without a license any more than Stardock can use copyrights it doesn't own without a license.

That much is clear. But what exactly constitutes "use" is not clear before ~4 million USD is wasted on the pay to play american legal system. That's millions of dollars sapped from both of your projects that will make them less competitive against other games besides each other.

Throughout the entire dispute, Stardock has tried to make good faith concessions and do so in a way that doesn't create the impression it is giving up its rights.  For example, Fred asked Stardock not to refer to the combat mini-game as Super-Melee even though all trademarks associated with the classic games (and Super-Melee was present on some of the boxes for example) belong to Stardock.  Fine, Stardock changed it to Fleet Battles.

Similarly, Paul and Fred have said that the human ship looks too much like their Star Trek derived ship.  So below is the new Terran Cruiser:

Honestly, I think these things were over-reach on their part and asking you to police your community for copyright violations created in a ship editor certainly was. But, they likewise complied with your similarly over-reach-y requiring of them to not use "Star Control" in a fair use sort of way in their announcement post by editing such language. You both should have adopted a live and let live policy for these edge case, maybe-infractions of your respective rights and not been so nit picky. And you both did good by trying to accommodate each other's requests.

However, you in particular filed against them first, which crosses the line from silly requests to a state of open war. Thus, I do not see how you gave them the same chance to cease and desist as they gave you.
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