Have you ever wondered about the ownership of copyrights, trademarks, and patents for inventions created in outer space? The realm of outer space, roughly 100 km above the Earth’s surface, lacks clear international boundaries. While prevailing practices dictate that spacecraft do not descend below this altitude, nor venture higher, the precise demarcation remains undefined.
The Intersection of IPR and Space Activities
The world of space law has witnessed numerous treaties and agreements, forming the foundation for the International Law of Outer Space. Key among these are the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, the Rescue Agreement of 1968, the Liability Convention of 1972, the Registration Convention of 1975, and the Moon Treaty of 1979. The most pivotal of these is the & Outer Space Treaty,& which primarily addresses governmental activities in space. Key provisions include:
Article 1: Outer space is open to all nations for exploration, and no single nation can claim sovereignty, defining it as Res-Commune’s or public property.
Article 2: Outer space is not subject to state appropriation through sovereignty.
The Role of Patents in Space
Patents grant exclusive rights to use, create, and sell an innovative product for a specific duration. To secure a patent, an invention must be unique, non-obvious, and beneficial to humanity. The patent system generally follows the laws of the nation where the invention originates. Issues arise when such inventions are used or infringed upon in space.
Inventions Developed on Earth and Used in Space
In such cases, the patent system of the nation where the invention was conceived applies, and the patent is registered in that country. Complying with international treaties and space standards, the space object can then be launched into space. For instance, solar panels on the International Space Station (ISS) were developed on Earth and deployed in space. Inventions Developed and Used in Space
This complex scenario pertains to inventions created and utilized in space. While no such inventions exist yet, experts project their emergence in the twenty-first century. However, these inventions pose jurisdictional challenges in the absence of effective space governance. Enforcing legislation in such cases, if identified, will present further difficulties.
Space Object Registration/
Article 8 of the Registration Convention 1975 obligates states to exercise jurisdiction and control over registered space objects. Registration occurs in a two-step process: at the national and international levels. States establish a national registry for their space objects and notify the UN Secretary-General to enter the object into the UN Register of Space
Objects, with the registering state retaining jurisdiction and control.
Treatment of Registered Space Objects
Under the Registration Convention 1975, states are obligated to exert jurisdiction and control over registered space objects in outer space. Applying national or regional patent laws to space inventions is a common query. While patent protection is generally territorial, international space law grants jurisdiction and control to the state of registration. The question remains whether geographical jurisdiction allows each nation to extend its intellectual property laws to licensed space objects.
The Positive Impact of IPR on Outer Space Activities
As space technology advances and operations shift from government-run to private and commercial enterprises, intellectual property protection in space has gained prominence. Activities like remote sensing, direct broadcasting, and microgravity research and production are expanding. With increased commercialization, agency privatization, and partnerships
between government organizations and private firms, intellectual property rights have taken center stage in space missions.
The evolution of space operations and the increasing number of space missions highlight the growing importance of implementing intellectual property rights and preserving authors & rights in space law. However, the jurisdictional nature of IPR and space law, coupled with international law’s uniformity, creates ambiguity. Resolving this challenge necessitates
amending IP rights in relation to space laws and developing a systematic strategy among