Star Trek Merchandise Fights Stopped J.J. Abrams From Building A Massive Trek World

There will be a lot of discussion this weekend about choices J.J. Abrams made with Star Trek Into Darkness: Which characters he used; which characters he didn’t; which plotlines he should have used; and which narratives he simply couldn’t. This story touches on the last element.

An interesting column over on The Wrap explains how licensing and merchandising rights debates mired Bad Robot and Paramount in legal battles with CBS about what elements from Star Trek canon could be used … and which couldn’t. In fact, these hostile negotiations, according to the report, blocked Abrams from turning his 2009 reboot of the series into a multi-platform entertainment experience that would have included a television show, comic books, digital entertainment and more. In the process, these obstacles might have helped push Abrams into the welcome arms of Star Wars -- a franchise that likely worships all of this multi-platform ideas.

"J.J. just threw up his hands," a source told the site. "The message was, 'Why set up all this when we'll just be competing against ourselves?' The studio wanted to please Bad Robot, but it was allowing CBS to say yay or nay when it came to what was happening with the Star Trek products."

Specifically, the rights to the original TV series belong to CBS (which used to belong to Viacom along with Paramount) while the film studio holds the rights to the movies. Even as Abrams pushed the new Star Trek universe, CBS continued to market merchandise from the original television series, causing Bad Robot to claim cases of “brand confusion.” The company tried to get CBS to stop marketing the original series during this run of movies, but talks reportedly broke down over money.

The parties were much more in-sync on Star Trek Into Darkness rights deals, but the rights issues seem to be an on-going problem for the franchise, as it was similar issues that prevented a life-size USS Enterprise from being built in Las Vegas all the way back in the 90s. it sounds like Abrams was happier to take his “ball” and head to a company that wrote the book on merchandising: Lucasfilm.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.