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Star Control legal dispute was resolved by a phone call and mutual love of beekeeping

Series creators and Stardock will work together on multiple games and exchange technology, honey and homemade mead

The legal dispute between Star Control publisher Stardock and two of the series' creators has been one of the uglier battles of the past few years, but this has been settled in a most friendly (and unorthodox) manner.

As we reported yesterday, Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III declared an "amicable" end to the litigation and hinted that the settlement would benefit both sides and the series' fans.

In a post on the Star Control forums, Stardock reflected that the dispute centred around "the murky dividing line between what trademarks cover and what copyrights cover." Stardock claimed its own the trademark to Star Control, Reiche and Ford claimed the copyrights, and the issue escalated when both parties announced new games related to Star Control.

Over the past year, the battle has seen the classic Star Control games pulled from stores, as well as Ford and Reiche attempting to block the release of Stardock's Star Control: Origins.

Ford and Reiche's post offers the full details of what they say is "honestly and truly an amicable settlement" where no money changed hands.

It states that not only will the original games be restored to stores, but the two sides will be collaborating on new projects, exchanging technology and sharing the produce of their beekeeping. Yes, beekeeping.

Let's get the serious, legal stuff out of the way first.

Going forward, Stardock will create all new Star Control games, while Ford and Reiche's titles will form the Ur-Quan Masters franchise. Stardock has dropped all is alien name and character trademarks (which previously clashed with the use of 'Ur-Quan' among other things).

Both parties have dropped their oppositions to each other's trademarks. It has been clarified who ones the trademarks and copyrights to each element of Star Control, and both sides have agreed to recognise this and not challenge each other in future.

Royalties from sales of the first two classic games and Star Control III will be split equally between Stardock, Reiche and Ford. Stardock has also acknowledged that the duo are the creators of Star Control and its sequel -- a point that was contested earlier -- although both parties note that "many other skilled people also contributed their talent and creativity to help make the games so great."

Reiche has volunteered to work with Stardock on multiple new alien races for Origins (a title he admits he has put 50 hours into so far and thoroughly enjoyed). According to Stardock's post, Reiche will being working on a new Star Control game with the company this autumn.

Finally, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell has offered to help Ford and Reiche with the technology for their game.

While the exact wording of the agreement is unlikely to be released, the terms are not confidential. Wardell said this was insisted upon by both parties to "make sure the fans didn't have to speculate on how we came together on this and that it was genuinely something that resulted in both sides getting what they wanted out of the situation."

Now, about those bees.

It transpires that the settlement was not resolved through the usual, lengthy legal process but by Ford and Reiche calling Wardell directly -- something the CEO suggested a year ago -- and just talking.

Reiche has "a life-long dream of learning every Medieval villager skill", which has led him to dedicate much of his spare time to beekeeping. The goal was to make mead from homemade honey, but he has settled for just raising the bees.

So when they called Wardell, Reiche says his first sentence was along the lines of: "Before I start talking about settling our legal conflict, I'd like to talk about bees."

Wardell is also an avid beekeeper, and has even a posted tutorial video about this on YouTube, although notes he was stung while filming. A friendly conversation about bees served as a solid icebreaker before they moved on to discussing how they could settle their legal differences.

As such, beekeeping is actually built into the Star Control agreement.

"We added a section in which I'll be working with Paul on beekeeping," Wardell explained. "He's going to send me some mead, I'm going to send him some honey.

"I don't think the lawyers were particularly enthusiastic about us incorporating some of this into the agreement."

Wardell will also offer Reiche advice on how not to be stung.

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James Batchelor


James Batchelor is Editor-in-Chief at GamesIndustry.biz. He has been a B2B journalist since 2006, and an author since he knew what one was