Klingon Language, Pointy Ears, 'Mood and Theme' of Star Trek All Copyrighted, Paramount Claims

To boldly go where IP law has gone before.



Paramount, the studio that owns the Star Trek franchise, is suing the producers of a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film, Axanar, over "thousands" of copyright violations.

At first, Paramount did not specify these, so the producers being sued argued the suit should be dismissed because Paramount failed to list the specific copyright violations. Paramount returned with an amended lawsuit that listed their specific claims, ranging from the use of "phasers" to the appearance of various Star Trek aliens like Vulcans.

Paramount's claim to own a copyright on the Klingon language, a fictional language invented for the Star Trek franchise, has gotten the most attention. That's because Klingon has come up as an analogy in a different kind of copyright case, involving tech companies Oracle and Google.

In 2012 Oracle sued Google over the use of certain programming code Oracle claimed it had copyrighted. Legal observers compared Oracle's move to an attempt to copyright Klingon.  A district court judge ruled that Oracle's Java API was not copyrightable, but that was later reversed in part by an appeals court. Google appealed to the Supreme Court, but was denied certiorari last summer.

Paramount also insisted one of the infringing elements of the Axanar film was the science fiction action adventure "mood and theme" of Star Trek. "The mood and theme of Star Trek as a science fiction action adventure first appeared in The Orginal Series episode 'The Cage' (Reg. No. PA 313-430)," Paramount notes in its amended suit, "and appeared in all subsequent episodes of The Original Series and other derivative Star Trek Copyrighted Works."

The amended lawsuit lists 54 such infringing elements, ranging from the mood and theme to specific logos, alien appearances, and fictional technologies, like the teleporting transporter and the process of being "beamed up."

Beam me up, Scotty.

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  1. They should add “being a touchy douchbag” to their list of copyrighted materials.

    1. Oh, that’s Season 1 TNG “Mood and Theme”

      1. I thought it was every season of TNG.

    2. No shit. These types of abuses are the main reason I no longer support the bizarre notion of “intellectual property.”

      1. I prefer the term ‘imaginary property’ myself.

        1. Nice.

        2. That is GOOD. I hope you haven’t copyrighted that, because tough.

      2. Did you always think it was a bizarre notion, but thought the damage would be acceptably limited if it wasn’t abused? Because otherwise that’s specious reasoning; the very concept that something can be abused implies it can be properly used too.

        I think there’s a happy medium wherein intellectual property enhances liberty & progress rather than retarding it. If claims that are too broad are upheld, that’s bad, but if narrow claims are not upheld, that’s bad too. I don’t blame a potential owner (or their lawyers) for trying to stake out as much ground as possible, I just hope the actual outcomes are reasonable.

        I don’t see why words in Klingon shouldn’t be copyrightable as forms of artistic expression, in the context of their being “Klingon”. (Someone’s use of the same nonsense sounds in other contexts would not be infringing.) “Mood & theme” I don’t get as either copyrightable or trademarkable, although maybe some specific examples could convince me narrowly; seems they’re trying to occupy the entire field of “science fiction” or “space opera” there. Pointy ears, no way, those had a long previous hx as “alien”, “pixie”, etc.

        1. I think there’s a happy medium wherein intellectual property enhances liberty & progress rather than retarding it. If claims that are too broad are upheld, that’s bad, but if narrow claims are not upheld, that’s bad too. I don’t blame a potential owner (or their lawyers) for trying to stake out as much ground as possible, I just hope the actual outcomes are reasonable.

          They’re hit or miss. Generally, copyright is very narrowly tailored, so I think it enhances liberty more often than not. Imagine if the roles were reversed. What if there was a small independent film company that put out a hit movie and Paramount ripped the characters, storyline, etc from that movie?

          If you haven’t checked out some of the deliverables from the Axanar project, go do it. It really blurs the lines between fan film and legitimate small-budget movie.

          1. That’s the plot of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

        2. Pointy ears, no way, those had a long previous hx as “alien”, “pixie”, etc.

          Paramount’s amended complaint seems to be arguing that the “Vulcan look” is what is copyrighted, not the pointy ears per se. Look on page 14.

    3. So, you’re a fan of CDR Ryker?

    4. Well, the Klingon language is clearly intellectual property and worthy of copyright protection. “Mood and theme” not so much.

      And pointy ears? Wasn’t Rodenberry just appropriating Elf Culture?

  2. The smart move would have been to arrive at their door with a licencing agreement. A: It would have been less of a Dick move, B: it would have maintained their claim to the content in question in the legal sphere, and C: it would have allowed the project to move forward, something the people who make Star Trek financially viable would appreciate.

    1. it would have allowed the project to move forward, something the people who make Star Trek financially viable would appreciate

      This would presume that Paramount is interested in courting that demographic to build the franchise. I would argue, based on the last film and what I’ve seen of the upcoming film, that they’re actively working to rid themselves of that fan base and completely re-work the franchise for more mass appeal.

      Apparently that involves turning Star Trek into a giant, action-based, lump of shit, but that’s why Star Trek is now dead to me and I, as a fan of good science fiction, decided to move on to “The Expanse”.

      1. Abandoning your core fanbase in pursuit of the feckless masses strikes me as a losing proposition long term.

        1. Blizzard would agree but they’re too busy swimming in gold.

          1. Not as much as they used to be. Subs have dropped significantly.

        2. Star Wars, Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, and pretty much every mainstream vidyagaem RPG would say otherwise.

          1. I’m deep into Fallout 4 and I don’t see selling out anywhere in that game. It’s perfectly in line with Fallouts 1-3 (and New Vegas). Hell, if anything they’ve doubled down on all of the degenerate awesomeness of the original Fallout.

            Except for pimping out your wife to raise extra revenue…I find it unfortunate they eliminated that option.

      2. “The Expanse”?

        What’s that?

        A documentary about Chris Christie’s pants size?

        1. Assuming you’re not joking, it’s probably the best sci-fi series I’ve seen in the last decade. Kicks the crap out of the good seasons of “Battlestar Galactica”. They actually poached one of the actors from the series for additional scenes they’re shooting for the new “Star Trek” (which is how you know it’s going to be bad…since it’s supposed to be released in four months).

          You can watch it for free here. It’s also a very good series of books.

    2. By the way, I predict that Paramount will begin subtly slipping their product marketing into the Klingon language in the films, since the timeframe of the series makes traditional product placement problematic.

      In other words, don’t be surprised when you hear words in Klingon in future films that sound an awful lot like “Coke” or “Pepsi”.

      1. Like “A Million Ways to Die in the West” used “Mila Kunis” for “very beautiful” in the Native American subtitled scenes?

        1. I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating frybread.


    3. I have followed (although not funded) the Axanar project and watched several interviews with the producer Alec Peters.

      There are many Star Trek fan-fiction novels and films. I heard Peters and many others explain the fan-fics are allowed as long as they are non-profit. Peters made it clear in his fund raising pitches and video blogs promoting Axanar that they cannot legally make a profit, only produce for cost. Their purpose was to
      1) establish their bona-fides as a new independent studio capable of quality work on a small budget which would get the studio other projects from which they could profit and
      2) Shame CBS/Paramount by showing that Axanar Studios could make a better Star Trek movie than the rights holders could, at around 1% or less of the budget.

      My legal suggestion would be to point out all the other Star Trek fan-fics that use the objectionable material that CBS/Paramount has NOT sued, and asked why they are being treated differently. I suspect it’s mainly because Axanar is of higher quality than the others and people might watch it.

      BTW, other than Peters himself, the entire Axanar cast is made of Hollywood veterans including Tony Todd, J.G. Hertzler, and Gary Graham of Star Trek and Kate Vernon and Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica.

      1. Just went and watched a few minutes. The production values and acting talent are surprising. Even shocking. I did not expect to see so many familiar faces from the sci-fi genre. How in the world a fanfic group pulled this off is beyond me. I have no idea if the overall product is worthy, not having seen more than a few minutes, but if they were able to pull that level of a team together, I’m going to bet the final product is excellent.

        1. J.G. Hertzler has been in one or two other Star Trek fan-fics besides Axanar, and in those he was easily the most captivating actor on the screen.

          That, and Chase Masterson’s green cleavage. Two other things on the screen I was captivated by.

  3. I don’t see how this could possibly backfire on Paramount.

    1. These masturbation euphemisms are getting pretty abstract.

      1. Your commitment to recycling is admirable, X.

          1. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

              1. Wait a minute, is THAT a masturbation euphemism?

                1. No, that would be a Canadian Handshake.

                  1. All using maple syrup as a lubricant.

            1. Wouldn’t we have to destroy Seattle or something?

            2. Reboots are ok, as long as they’re gritty. I’m talking hard R here.

              1. Oh, so you mean Gene’s original vision for TNG.


            3. Hitler?

      2. It’s the opposite of a reach around.



          1. Shit, dude, i just barfed a piece of apple out of my nose.

  4. It’s in the spirit of Gene Roddenberry – create a money-free utopia while secretly ripping off the composer of the theme tune for half his royalties.

      1. That’s about the funniest masturbation euphemism yet.

  5. There are already a lot of semi-professional fan-made Trek movies so it’s not like Paramount doesn’t approve. Maybe they just didn’t get permission first.

    1. Axanar is probably one of the best fan-made ones produced. Paramount probably got nervous as it had the potential to be too popular.

      1. I was actually looking forward to it.

        I’ve not looked forward to any ‘professional’ film in decades.

      2. They probably didn’t like how their last film and the upcoming one compared to Axanar. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you turn your franchise over to J.J. Abrams and he kills off everything that fans liked about it in a shower of lens flares and explosions.

        1. J. J. Abrams is an embarrassment to science fiction. Everything he touches turns to a time traveling piece of shit.

          1. Amen to that. He did exactly one thing that I think was excellent…”Alias”. And he’s been turning out garbage ever since as the mass consumption suckers sing his praises.

            (Full disclosure: I thought the new “Star Wars” was one of the shittiest, laziest, most incoherent movies I’ve ever had to sit through, so some may disagree with the level to which I despise Abrams’ work).

      3. Yeah I remember the documentary-style preview being pretty awesome. And then you read about Star Trek Beyond going through reshoots and you can see the problem.

  6. OT: but related to paramount.

    Indiana Jones back for a 5th film set for July 2019, according to Disney. Harrison Ford will star with Spielberg to direct. Ford will be 75.


    1. Potential working title:

      “Indiana Jones And The Search For The Magic Ben-Gay”

      1. I smell a weekly contest topic….

      2. Indiana Jones and the Thousand-Year Raptor

      3. Indiana Jones and the Early Bird Special at Denny’s

      4. A friend didn’t like his step (mom or pop, I forget which) and replaced the contraceptive foam with Ben-Gay. He got evicted and thought it a worthwhile tradeoff.

      5. Indiana Jones and the Broken Internet

      6. Indiana Jones Goin’ 35 MPH With His Blinker On

      7. Indiana Jones and the Quest for Metamucil

      8. Indiana Jones and the Onion Belt

      9. Indiana Jones and the Golden Bed Pan

      10. Indiana Jones Yells at a Cloud

        1. Indiana Jones and the Bingo Caller of Doom

      11. Indiana Jones and that Weird Gummy Film in the Corners of His Mouth

      12. Indiana Jones Has That Smell Now

        1. Indiana Jones and the Search for the Source of That Draft

        2. Indiana Jones vs. Resident Who Hates Matlock

      13. Indiana Jones Puts On a Cardigan and Then Complains About How Hot It Is In Here

      14. Indiana Jones and the Kids These Days

        1. Indiana Jones and the Congealed Ball of Hard Candy

        2. Indiana Jones and the Last Ice Tea Lemonade

      15. “Indiana Jones And The Search For The Fountain Of Youth”

      16. Indiana Jones and the derelict lawn interlopers

      17. “Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Wait, What…? We Already Found The Ark And It’s In A Warehouse Somewhere? … Well Maybe We Look For The Holy Grail? Wait, Oh Fuck It Let’s Go Out For Some Frozen Yogurt, After Which We Should Really Get At Finding The Lost Ark (And I’m Not Working With Anymore Little Chink Kids), And ‘Hey – Look – It’s Tony Randall!!!’ ”

        {Paramount doesn’t have anything to do with Saturday Night Live, does it?}

    2. NVM about paramount the mouse owns the rights.

    3. THEY’RE RAPING HIM AGAIN!!!!1!!!!111!!!!11!!!

    4. But, wasn’t any Indiana Jones movie after The Last Crusade basically pointless (okay, artistically, any one after Raiders was pointless, but that’s not what I’m talking about)? I mean the guy and his father became immortal. There’s really not much adventure if you know you’re still going to live.

      1. No, the power of the Holy Grail was restricted to the cave that the old knight was in because reasons. Once it passed the symbol on the floor in the main chamber the magic turned off. The old knight explained it when Indy got to the cave with all the cups.

        1. Well, there’s capitalistic Holy Grails for you, full of restrictions.

  7. Klingon Language, Pointy Ears, ‘Mood and Theme’ of Star Trek All Copyrighted, Paramount Claims

    “Tell me again that story about I.P. helping innovation, daddy!”
    “Ok, dear. ‘Once upon a time, in a land of pure and unadulterated statist bullshit…'”

    1. Once upon a time, copyright ran for fourteen years. This would be public domain material by now under those rules.

      1. Wasn’t copyright originally longer than a patent? I mean, it’s getting to the point where a copyright lasts for all practical purposes “forever” but they were at least a few decades when first put into law.

        1. I seem to recall copyright starting out shorter, and just getting longer while patents stayed at 20 years.

          1. To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

            “limited” seems to be fading out on the copies of the Constitution that Congress and the SCOTUS have.

          2. Copyright started out at 28 years from date of creation – in the US.


            1. Was that 14 with a 14 year renewal?

              1. Possibly – but I think it was a straight 28 years with no renewal.

            2. Now it’s up to 99? Or do heirs and successors get another 99 years, as long as they release a new edition?

          3. Patents were 17 years after issuance, just went up to 20 after application a few years ago.

            Fucking lawyers.

            1. Previously they’d been 21 yrs. from issuance, and before that, 15. But copyright’s had a nearly monotonic increase.

              1. I meant utility pats. Last I knew, design pats. were still 15 yrs.

            2. just went up to 20 after application a few years ago

              21 years ago (1995).

    2. IP does help innovation provided cases of it are correctly decided. You might as well say automobiles are anti-progress because someone threatened to run someone else over. Just because copyright’s a good thing, & just because Paramount claims they own these things, doesn’t mean it should be conceded that they do.

  8. NERD FIGHT!!!

    1. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!


  9. Paramount’s claim to own a copyright on the Klingon language, a fictional language invented for the Star Trek franchise, has gotten the most attention. That’s because Klingon has come up as an analogy in a different kind of copyright case, involving tech companies Oracle and Google.

    In 2012 Oracle sued Google over the use of certain programming code Oracle claimed it had copyrighted. Legal observers compared Oracle’s move to an attempt to copyright Klingon.

    That strikes me as kind of weird, because the claim that Klingon is copyrighted goes way back.

  10. KIRK: “Captain’s Log, Stardate 6574. We have come out of hyperspace in the Ripov Quadrant. The place is filled with unauthorized fanfiction, movies and other works which steal our copyright. Bones!”

    BONES: “Yes, Cap’n?”

    KIRK: “You attended Alpha Centauri School of Jurisrudence for a few years before transferring to medical school, did you not?”

    BONES: “Aye, cap’n, but I’m a doctor, not a lawyer.”

    KIRK: “Then I confer on you the title of Doctor of Laws. Now, find a way wipe out these unauthorized works.”

    BONES: “Well, cap’n, I’d say slap them with our Restraining Order Beam.”

    KIRK: “Perfect! Mr. Sulu, make it so.”

    SULU: “Aye Cap’n, and that’s a fabulous suit you’re wearing, by the way.”

    KIRK: “Thank you.”

    SPOCK: “Captain, I must caution you that this sort of aggressive behavior will alienate much of our fanbase.”

    KIRK: “Very well, stand down, Sulu.”

    SULU: “Standing down, sir. Spock, what do *you* recommend*?”

    SPOCK: “A peace conference.”

    1. [Conference room on the ship – the nerds who created the unauthorized fanfic, movies, etc. are sitting at tables and listening to Kirk]

      KIRK: Gentlemen, I trust the boiled sandworm and Kardashian whiskey are to your satisfaction?”

      NERDS: “Yes, sir, and it’s an honor to have you speak to us.”

      KIRK: “Why do you feel it necessary to make all these unauthorized spinoff stories? Isn’t the authorized, canonical material enough for you?”

      NERDS: “But don’t you see, we’re trying to *honor* your series by letting it serve as our inspiration. Threaten us all we want, we’re not going to give that up.”

      RICK ASTLEY: “Yeah!”

      KIRK: “OK, I would never tell you to stop, but I *will* offer you a licensing deal in which you do your work under Paramount’s authority.”

      NERDS: “And in return?”

      KIRK: “You can watch Uhura do her feather dance?”

      NERDS: “Young Uhura or middle-aged Uhura?”

      KIRK: “Young Uhura, of course.”

      NERDS: “You have yourself a deal!”

      1. Well done. I actually laughed so hard at the Rick Astley line that blue milk shot out my nose.

  11. Is an Alcubierre Drive copyright infringement? He did think it up wondering how Star Trek could be pseudo-plausible, and was more than happy when Star Trek cribbed his name for more of their bullshitium. What about Bussard ram-scoops? This is all interesting avenue to get essentially patents for decades and decades maybe.

  12. It’s fascinating that Star Trek is suing their fans over a fan film, while at official Star Wars conventions they have fan film contests. The people in charge of Star Wars realized that the kind of engagement required for fan films only makes their ip more profitable, unlike Paramount.

    1. It’s fascinating that Star Trek is suing their fans over a fan film, while at official Star Wars conventions they have fan film contests

      And yet, one can obtain the theatrical edits of every ST film without a fuss. To do the same for SW, one has to go pirating. SW definitely has issues of its own.

        1. I believe that’ called Nerdkido.

          Uh-oh, I just cultutally appropriated Japanese culture there, didn’t I. I’ll be off to re-education here shortly…

        2. I RESENT THAT. Nerds are good with math and computers and have lucrative life skills. I prefer “dork”.

    2. In defense of Paramount, they’ve long tolerated fan production series like Star Trek: Phase II and the excellent Star Trek Continues.

      I’m unaware what specifically about Axanar is rubbing them the wrong way but in the past they’ve been cool with fan productions that do not attempt to profit off the franchise.

      1. It made them look bad by looking like it was going to be better than their official work product.

        1. Sadly, that is not a high bar. And that’s not just Abrams bashing. The first 3 Trek films were great, the 4th decent, the rest . . . spotty.

          1. Only even numbered films are great.

            Odd numbered films are heretical!

            It is known.

          2. The first 3 Trek films were great

            I’ll give you TWOK, but #1 is awful, and #3 is campy as hell. TMP was all about “let’s show off the FX budget with long clips of people watching the Enterprise from a shuttlepod” and trippy drug wormhole scenes.

            1. Search for Spock was pretty damn good until the stupid Fal-Tor-Pan ending. Uggh.

            2. #1 was the only movie in the whole series that looked like an episode of classic Trek. Yeah the CGI went on too long and the movie could have been a half hour earlier.

              #3 Campy? 4 is, not three. Three is a fairly serious continuation of the story from 2.

          3. Ah, yes, Star Trek V, directed by William “Stop Him Before He Directs Again” Shatner.

            Peter David even made fun of him in an issue of Dreadstar, where a parody of Star Trek meets the Dreadstar gang, with the evil captain Tibrus, whom his first officer calls “Director Five” totally screws up a first-contact situation.


      2. Star Trek: Phase II was obviously low budget and campy, but that made it seem just as believable as “The Original series”


    1. -1 “but I’m sitting down.”

    2. +1 I have HAD eNOUGH of YOU!

        -Conan the barbarian

        1. Great. I used italic instead of strike. I’ll show myself out.

          1. Crush your tags. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women tags.


  15. “Save your strength, these lawyers signed a retainer to live and die by my command 200 years before you were born.”

  16. Is that Mitch Pileggi as a Klingon?

  17. CDC issues new scare tactics, misleading quotes on opiates:…

  18. The “mood and theme” of Star Trek first appeared in the Book of Job.

    1. You mean the “mood and theme” of having to watch Voyager.

  19. It’s becoming clear that Obama needs to nominate a nerd to the SCOTUS.

    1. I’ll be happy if he doesn’t nominate Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

      1. But but but – don’t you fucking love science?

  20. Ah, the fresh scent of Nerd in the air. No wonder keep coming back.

  21. I’ve seen Star Trek episodes that seem to rip off other franchises.

    There was an episode I remember where Dr. Crusher went back to where she grew up on Planet Scotland, and the whole story was like a condensed version of Ayn* Rice’s The Witching Hour.

    Also, there have been other series before that took some of these things (pointy ears, and Star Trek style uniforms) for instance, and the Star Trek people didn’t object–Space 1999 for instance.

    *Yeah, I know. The spelling is better that way.

    1. FWIW, it’s been all but admitted that Sub Rosa was a knock-off, even to the point of thinking Rice gets a credit under a pseudonym.

        1. I knew it!

        2. Doesn’t gallo pinto really mean beans and rice in espanol?

          I know it literally means “spotted rooster”, but idiomaticallu, it means spotted beans and rice.

          That would make the pseudonym deANNa RICE.

          I knew it!

          1. It’s a beans and rice dish. But, yes, one more pop culture mystery solved!

            1. Wiki calls it “an emblematic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine”, too.


  22. “Mood and Theme,” eh?

    Aren’t those just different terms for “Look and Feel?”

    I’ll see your Visicalc and raise you a Lotus 1-2-3.

    And I rake in the chips! Booyah!

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