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.