The (Klingon) Empire Strikes Back

Mark E. Shoulson mark at
Mon Nov 7 18:46:09 CST 2016

Thanks, Asmus.

The document from the copyright office is pretty explicit and final, and 
it is pretty clear that you can't copyright an *alphabet*, that is 
*characters*.  You can copyright *glyphs* (a font), but that is another 
matter entirely.

I've heard that there are similar questions regarding tengwar and cirth, 
but it is notable that UTC *did* see fit to consider this question for 
them and determine that they were worthy of encoding (they are on the 
roadmap), even though they have not actually followed through on that 
yet, perhaps because of these very IP concerns.  Notably, pIqaD is not 
only not on  the roadmap, it is specifically listed on the "Not on the 
Roadmap" page as an example of something that was not deemed worthy of 
being on the roadmap. If it's an IP issue, then someone will have to 
explain to me why it applies so asymmetrically to Tolkien and Klingon 
(and Blissymbolics, for that matter).  And yes, these are not the only 
writing systems with these issues and will not be the last.  One way or 
another, the question will have to be faced and dealt with one way or 
another; ignoring it won't help.


On 11/06/2016 09:16 PM, Asmus Freytag wrote:
> On 11/6/2016 2:22 PM, David Starner wrote:
>> On Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 10:42 AM David Faulks <davidj_faulks at 
>> <mailto:davidj_faulks at>> wrote:
>>     There is another issue of course, which I think could be a huge
>>     obstacle: the Trademark/Copyright issue. Paramount claims
>>     copyright over the entire Klingon language (presumably including
>>     the script). The issue has recently gone to court. Encoding
>>     criteria for symbols (and this likely extends to letters) is
>>     against encoding them without the permission of the
>>     Copyright/Trademark holder.
>> The US copyright office will not register letters for copyright: cf. 
>> So the copyright issue is not relevant here.
> On the face of it, the cited statement seems to very broadly reject 
> the copyrightability of alphabets and writing systems, tracing that 
> decision back to statements of intent around the copyright legislation.
> Given that, I'd tend to concur with Doug that UTC should feel free to 
> discuss this on the merit, but that in the case of a positive outcome 
> the Consortium would of course have counsel review this issue. Given 
> that this won't be the only writing system for which the original 
> invention post-dates modern IP laws, it would probably be good to have 
> some clarity here.
> A./

More information about the Unicode mailing list