The legal battle for Star Trek has gotten increasingly nerdier as it’s raged on, as the plaintiffs and the defendants have attempted to define what Star Trek is in an effort to determine its ownership. Paramount is arguing that the Axanar filmmakers are infringing on its copyrighted material, while they insist that the movie is more a labor of love than a commercial venture (not to mention that Paramount has been fine with other fan-based projects). But when the Axanar team tried to get cute and demand that Paramount enumerate the “innumerable elements” that were being used without express written consent, the studio did just that, right down to the pointy Vulcan ears and Klingon swears.
But according to The Hollywood Reporter, a new wrinkle—or forehead ridge—has been revealed, as the Klingons have at long last entered the fray. And by Klingons, we of course mean humans who have gone to the trouble of picking up phrases from The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine, or maybe even ponied up the darseks for the Rosetta Stone software. But they’re almost as bellicose as their fictional counterparts, having just filed an amicus (it sounds friendlier than it is, trust us) brief on behalf of the defendants.
In the 26-page legal document (which is available in its entirety at THR, and well worth the read), the Language Creation Society admits that while Paramount did commission the creation of the Klingon language, it is now commonly used enough to be considered a full-fledged language, in a sense. To support its claims that Klingon has taken on a life outside of the franchise, the brief cites sales of hundreds of thousands of Klingon dictionaries, the existence of Klingon language certification programs. It even acknowledges that somewhere out there, some little kid is yelling petaQ for the first time. This makes Klingon a “useful system” for communication, which means it cannot be copyrighted.
Paramount doesn’t feel that way, though, dismissing the idea as “absurd” because there are no real Klingons in existence who need the language to communicate, because the studio board has apparently never been to a Star Trek convention. But the Language Creation Society argues that a language doesn’t need native speakers to be considered useful, comparing the notion with questioning the validity of French words spoken by a German.
However this works out, we hope it isn’t lost on anyone involved that this is exactly the kind of existential quandary that would have popped up in an episode of Star Trek: Can Klingon (the language) exist without Klingons? Unfortunately, both sides currently lack a Picard-like orator to make their case, so this will probably drag on a while longer, during which time they’ll also hash out the relationship between vampires and Vulcans.