Murray Leinster

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Murray Leinster (June 16, 1896 - June 8, 1975) was the nom de plume of William Fitzgerald Jenkins, an American science fiction and alternative history writer.

He was born in Norfolk, Virginia. During World War I, he served with the Committee of Public Information and the United States Army (1917-1918). Following the war, Leinster became a free-lance writer. In 1921, he married Mary Mandola. They had four daughters. During World War II, he served in the Office of War Information. He won the Liberty Award in 1937 for "A Very Nice Family," the 1956 Hugo Award for Best Novelette for "Exploration Team," a retro-Hugo in 1996 for Best Novelette for "First Contact." Leinster was the Guest of Honor at the 21st Worldcon in 1963. In 1995, the Sidewise Award for Alternate History was established, named after Leinster's story "Sidewise in Time."

In 2000, Leinster's heirs sued Paramount Pictures over the film Star Trek: First Contact, claiming that as the owners of the rights to Leinster's short story "First Contact", it infringed their trademark in the term. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted Paramount's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the suit (see Estate of William F. Jenkins v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 90 F. Supp. 2d 706 (E.D. Va. 2000) (http://wikisource.org/wiki/Estate_of_William_F._Jenkins_v._Paramount_Pictures_Corp.) for the full text of the court's ruling). The court found that regardless of whether Leinster's story first coined "first contact", it since became a generic (and therefore unprotectable) term that described the overall genre of science fiction in which humans first encounter alien species. Even if the title was instead "descriptive"—a category of terms higher than "generic" that may be protectable—there was no evidence that the title had the required association in the public's mind (known as "secondary meaning") such that its use would normally be understood as referring to Leinster's story. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's dismissal without comment.

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