Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Discovery Wins Copyright Lawsuit Against Tardigrade Video Game

CBS and Netflix re-affirmed an earlier win in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit over a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against both companies due to a plotline in the first season of Star Trek: Discovery that a video game creator alleged infringed upon the plot of his unreleased game. The video game was about a giant tardigrade who traveled through outer space and a similar creature played a key role in Star Trek Discover Season 1.

After the Second Circuit lower court had already dismissed the claims, the Court of Appeals agreed in upholding the lower court ruling that both the video game and the TV show were relying on uncopyrightable scientific facts about tardigrades and their ability to survive in outer space.

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Anas Osama Ibrahim Abdin was working on a video game called Tardigrades, about a space station botanist who merged with a giant tardigrade and traveled through outer space. Tardigrades are microscopic creatures that exist all over the planet Earth and are famous for their ability to withstand extreme conditions, whether it be extreme cold, heat or radiation. A pair of experiments even revealed that tardigrades could survive the rigors of outer space exposure (including direct UV radiation).

A major plotline in the first season of Star Trek: Discovery involves the Discovery encountering a giant space tardigrade-like creature who the crew soon discovers has a sort of symbiotic relationship with the mycelial network in the Discovery's spore drive that allows the ship to control the spore drive and cause the starship to teleport.

When it became clear that the repeated jumps were hurting the creature (dubbed "Ripper"), specialist Michael Burnham freed the animal.

Since it is a known scientific fact that tardigrades can survive in outer space, the court did not feel that the idea was novel enough to be copyrightable. The court ruled, “Abdin’s space-traveling tardigrade is an unprotectable idea because it is a generalized expression of a scientific fact—namely, the known ability of a tardigrade to survive in space. By permitting Abdin to exclusively own the idea of a space-traveling tardigrade, this Court would improperly withdraw that idea from the public domain and stifle creativity naturally flowing from the scientific fact that tardigrades can survive the vacuum of space.”

The court also noted that there were no other similarities between the stories between the show and the video game.

ViaBloomberg Law.