Court Goes Where ‘No Court Has Gone Before' for ‘Star Trek'

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An appeals court went a little out of this world Monday in ruling that an offshoot of the “Star Trek” franchise did not infringe the copyrights of a developer’s videogame concept.

Judge Denny Chin of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals used some legal literary license in writing a decision in favor of CBS Broadcasting Inc. as he noted that a copyright lawsuit filed in 2018 was one among many since “Star Trek" premiered in September 1966.

“Today, in the latest round of Star Trek-related litigation, we are asked to boldly go where no court has gone before," Chin wrote for a panel of three appeals judges who decided the case consistent with the findings of a lower-court judge.

He said the panel decided that Abdin failed to show there was substantial similarity between his videogame concept and the television series: “Star Trek: Discovery.”

Abdin maintained that a concept he introduced online in 2014 on several online forums and websites later was utilized after CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Netflex Inc. premiered the latest “Star Trek" incarnation in September 2017.

Abdin's videogame and the television series both featured tardigrades, which are microscopic organisms so hardy that they can survive in space, the 2nd Circuit said.

The appeals court noted that information about tardigrades was available publicly. It cited a Smithsonian Magazine report that tardigrades commonly seen on moss or the bottom of lakes have also been found surviving in boiling hot springs and buried under ice on Himalayan mountaintops.

“The tardigrade’s ability to survive in space has been reported and discussed in numerous scientific studies and thus has entered the public domain as a scientific fact," the appeals court said, noting that they've also been featured in works of fiction. “Facts and ideas are not protected by copyright."

A message seeking comment was left with lawyers for Abdin.

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