Thanks for getting back to me.
I appreciate (really!) the frustration at not getting a simple Yes or
No answer. But this whole area of law -- which has never been what
you might call "simple" -- has become so convoluted in the past decade
or so that even the legal professionals sometimes throw up their
Bottom line: You probably can use the term StarForge without much
risk, as long as your product bears no resemblance to other common
uses. But if you're heading down the path of designing computer games
(as your comment seems to suggest) then I would urge caution.
My answer below does three things:
--gives the standard, but important, caveat
--provides a short overview
--looks at the specifics of StarForge
Before rating the answer, please let me know if anything about it is
unclear, or if you need any additional information. Just post a
Request for Clarification to let me know how I can help, and I am at
All the best with your endeavors,
CAVEAT: I'm not a legal professional. Although I'm confident in the
information provided here, you should take careful note of the
disclaimer at the bottom of the page: "Answers and comments provided
on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to
substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric,
psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other
SHORT OVERVIEW: You are asking about an area of law known as
"intellectual property" or IP, which refers to copyrights, trademarks,
patents, and other forms of legal protection for creative materials.
Copyrights generally protect entire works, such as a book or movie,
while a trademark and related 'marks' can be registered to protect an
individual brand or product name such as "Nestle's Crunch". A good
link to some reading material comparing trademarks to other forms of
IP protection (in case you want more background) is here:
In general, it is harder to get protection for a common word or phrase
than it is for new-found words. In other words, "Apple" a
common-word, has less IP protection than "Kodak" an invented word.
Also, the more independent are the meanings and use of a term, the
less likely there will be any confusion in the minds of consumers, and
the less likely there will be any IP conflict. Fro example, AAA is a
well-known mark of the Automobile Association of America, and if you
use the letters AAA for any type of enterprise involving cars,
driving, etc., you're likely to hear from their lawyers. However, if
you call your painting business "AAA Painting", there's little
likelihood of confusion, and it's much less likely that AAA would try
to take action, and if they did, less likely the courts would find in
their favor. (Look in your local phonebook under AAA and you'll see
what I mean).
Now, on to STARFORGE...
A Google search on [ Starforge OR "Star Forge" ] produces about 6,000
results...a respectable, but not a huge, number. The term is
obviously "out there" and in use. How is it used...? Here are a few
as the name of a map editor for the game, StarCraft
as an online gallery of "deviant art"
as a company name in the UK
as a dictionary entry for the term as used in Star Wars games
as the title of a chapter in an online story
etc, etc. Lots of uses, but the Star Wars/Knights of the Old
Republic use seems to dominate.
A check at the US Copyright office indicates there is no copyright for
either Starforge or "Star Forge:
This is not surprising, as I would not expect a character or subplot
within a story to be copyrighted (rather, it would trademarked).
However, the absence of a registered copyright does not mean that
there are no works titled "Starforge" that are not copyrighted -- a
work does not have to be registered in order to receive copyright
A similar check on trademarks shows, also, that Starforge (as one or
two words) is not a registered trademark:
In fact, the only result that pops up is a trademark for
"Forgestar"--a brand of tools.
In comparison, a search on "Jedi" reveals 8 live trademarks, including:
JEDI POWER BATTLES
So you can see that Mr. Lucas and company seem much more concerned
with protecting the Jedi term, than they are with Starforge.
What does all this mean...?
My best guess would be that you can probably use the term Starforge
(or Star Forge) for a product without running afoul of IP laws.
However, if you use it for a product that closely resembles some
existing product or concept that also goes by the name Starforge, then
you might run into a problem. Even if the owner of the other
Starforge product felt that they might not win a court case, they
still might be tempted to file an infringement complaint just to try
to get you to back off of what they consider "their territory".
The AAA example I gave above is a good one to keep in mind. If you're
going to open up business as "Starforge Painting", there's not likely
to be any problems. But if you create a computer game like
"Starforge: Republican Knights" then you might be headed for a
Wish I could have offered you a simple Yes or No, but <<sigh>> the
world just doesn't work that way, I'm afraid.
Let me know if you need any additional information...and all the best.
I sure hope you do become big and famous (and have to worry about
these sorts of things) one day soon.
search strategy: relied on bookmarked IP sites.