We might not recognize intelligent life when we meet it.
That’s one of those basic facts that have triggered a million scifi plots. It’s entirely possible that we won’t recognize another intelligent species. And given modern corporate and legal infrastructure, how would we fit intelligent life into our worldview? What about primitive intelligent life, like say, our ancestors three million years ago?
The idea behind “Fuzzy Nation” is that a basic Han Solo character accidentally befriends what turns out to be an intelligent alien life. Except that a) no one recognizes them as intelligent, and b) the company he works for has a vested interest in proving they’re not intelligent so that they can keep exploiting the planet’s mineral wealth.
It’s all brilliantly thought through, plotted, and carried out. Laugh, tremble in fear, and whoop at victory.