The writers and producers of science fiction stories and movies can lawfully use the words “first contact” in the titles of their works following a March 20 decision of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in which the court held the words generic and not entitled to trademark protection (Estate of Jenkins v. Paramount Pictures Corp., E.D. Va., No. 99-1766-A, 3/20/00).

The issue arose in this case by way of a trademark infringement suit brought by the heirs of William F. Jenkins. In 1945, Jenkins published a short story called “First Contact” in the magazine Astounding Science-Fiction. That story has come to be regarded as the seminal piece in a subclass of science fiction stories that describe humankind’s first contact with extraterrestrials.