This seems like the sort of thing that ought to be resolved with a well-drafted settlement and release document, which could clarify and outline the respective rights of the parties. There's no need for this to go to actual litigation, at least from the peanut gallery where I'm sitting.
I remember discussing some of the legal issues ages ago on the old Pages of Now and Forever, and as I recall, Accolade held the rights to the trademarks for "Star Control" and "StarCon," as well as the distribution rights for the original three games, and Paul and Fred held the IP for the story and designs of the characters and such for SC1 and SC2 (and by extension, some of SC3, as a derivative work of SC1/2). (I might be wrong about that, though, and the game may have been a "work for hire" under the Copyright Act.)
If SC1/2 were "works for hire," then this is an open and shut issue. Accolade would've held the copyrights, which then transferred to Atari, which then transferred to Stardock.
If, however, the copyright for SC1/2 reverted back to Paul and Fred....then yeah, you kind of have a mess. Not one that can't be parsed through legally, but one that definitely could lead to confusion and conflicts over who has the right to do what.
To my way of thinking -- again, from the peanut gallery -- the simplest approach is this:
- TFB enters into some kind of negotiated royalty arrangement with Stardock for SC1-3.
- Stardock retains distro rights on SC1-3 (likely in perpetuity).
- TFB either retain or are granted a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, exclusive license to the copyrightable material in SC1/2, and the derivative material from SC3 (Stardock can keep the Xchagger, Harika/Yorn, etc.).
- TFB are free to make their own sequel to SC1/2, provided that it (1) does not advertise itself as a Star Control sequel, and (2) does not otherwise use the Star Control trademark. They are explicitly permitted to advertise the game as a sequel to the Ur-Quan Masters in promotional materials.
- Alternatively, TFB are given a license to use the SC2 trademark (and only the SC2 trademark) in marketing materials, and otherwise are given a free hand to make their game. They are also explicitly required to indicate in marketing materials that they and their new game(s) aren't affiliated with or in any way connected with SC:O and StarDock.
- SC:O and subsequent SC-titled games are made through StarDock.
- Both parties agree to an anti-disparagement clause, with injunctive relief.
Aside from paying the lawyers to draft and review the documents, you could even forego an exchange of money, or make it at least a very inexpensive exchange, and call it a day. No need for rancor or public disparagement of any kind. Everyone gets to make their game, the rights are sorted and clarified, and life goes on.