The Star Control legal squabbling has gotten uglier…and weirder

5 min read


We’ve told you before how the Star Control Licence seems to be caught up in some sort of legal tussle. It all came to light when the original creators of the franchise, Paul Reiche III and Fred Jones (of toys for Bob) announced they’d be making a direct sequel to Star Control II. There’s a bit of confusion around the property, as Stardock believes they won the rights after snapping them up in an Atari fire sale. Atari themselves got the rights when publisher Accolade folded in the 90s.

There’s a bit of squabbling, because Reiche and Ford believe that they own the rights to the universe and its characters, and the right to use the name. Stardock, who’re making their Star Control game in Star Control: Origins, believe they won the rights.


It’s gotten uglier, and weirder. It’s all expertly laid out by Ars Technica if you want to read their deep dive into the situation. Last year, Stardock filed suit against Reiche III and Ford with the following claims:

  • That Stardock, by virtue of owning the “Star Control” trademark, is due all of the “fame, reputation, and goodwill” directed by fans toward the Star Control games
  • That Ford and Reiche want to associate their game, Ghosts of the Precursors, with that “fame, reputation and goodwill,” as well as the “fame, reputation, and goodwill” generated by Stardock around Stardock’s selling the Star Control games and around the development of Stardock’s upcoming Star Control: Origins title
  • That Ford and Reiche are willfully infringing Stardock’s “Star Control” trademark by marketing their own game as a “direct sequel” to Star Control 2
  • That Ford and Reiche are willfully infringing Stardock’s trademark by the use of old Star Control cover art on Ford and Reiche’s Twitter accounts and on their website
  • That Ford and Reiche refused to stop selling Star Control titles on GOG in violation of Stardock’s trademarks and copyrights
  • That Ford and Reiche have indicated they are knowingly violating Stardock’s trademarks and copyrights and that they have expressed an intention to continue doing so
  • That Ford and Reiche are purposefully trying to delegitimize and jeopardize Stardock’s upcoming game, Origins
  • That Ford and Reiche are purposefully trying to create confusion in the minds of prospective consumers over who owns “Star Control”

On top of that, StarDock and its boss Brad Wardell claim that the pair has little claim to the series because they didn’t actually create it. They assert that it was made by a team at Accolade, and that Reiche III and Ford have claimed fame for a game they had little to do with.

“However, Reiche or Ford’s advertising that they are the “Creators of Star Control” is false. As Reiche and Ford know, it was Accolade, not them that created Star Control I and Star Control II. Upon information and belief, any authorship that Reiche and Ford may have contributed to the Classic Star Control Games was limited, and it was instead a team of many other authors, including numerous artists, animators, musicians, designers and writers, among others, that collaborated together to develop creatives used in Star Control I and II.

Upon information and belief, and contrary to the common public understanding and what they have portrayed to the public, 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.

Reiche and Ford’s advertising themselves as being the “creators” of the Classic Star Control Games is false and misleading, and has been made in an attempt to dishonestly benefit from the goodwill and reputation associated with the STAR CONTROL Mark to which they have never had rights.”

In an update yesterday, Star Control’s (apparent) original creator said they’d countersue.

“Stardock filed a complaint in Federal court against us, personally, alleging among other things that we are not actually the creators of Star Control. This is news to us! Are we clones of the original Fred and Paul, just now learning of our squelchy vat birth? Unfortunately, Stardock’s complaint is not a prank – so, today we took action and filed a response in Federal court answering Stardock’s false claims. Of course, we’ve also filed counterclaims against Stardock, as the original Fred and Paul would have wanted”


Stardock VP of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships Kevin Unangst issued a statement in response. “We had no choice but to take legal action to defend the Star Control IP. We remain fans of Paul and Fred, but have to defend our ownership of the Star Control intellectual property to ensure we and the fans can continue to tell great stories in the Star Control multiverse.”

It’s a real legal mess right now, that puts the future of Star control games in jeopardy. When people fight over rights like this, nobody wins – least of all the people who’d like to play these games.

Last Updated: February 23, 2018

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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