Intellectual Property Rights in Outer Space

By Hamza Hameed for the Space Law resource

Carl Christol in 1964 said :

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-10-57-24

This is exactly the situation we see when it comes to the protection of intellectual property rights in outer space. This article will briefly describe what intellectual property rights comprise of, how they are relevant in outer space and what the current legal regime in place for outer space says about the matter. It will then look into the ‘flags of convenience’ problem that comes alongside the law advocated by the current regime and it will at the end, provide some recommendations and a conclusion as to the way forward.

Intellectual property is defined by Article II (viii) of the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as :

 (viii) “Intellectual property” shall include the rights relating to:

  • Literary, artistic and scientific works,

  • Performances of performing artists, phonograms, and broadcasts,

  • Inventions in all fields of human endeavor,

  • Scientific discoveries,

  • Industrial designs,

  • Trademarks, service marks, and commercial names and designations,

  • Protection against unfair competition,

and all other rights resulting from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields.

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 10.05.56.png

Essentially, intellectual property is property which is intangible in nature and has been created or conceived by the mind of a person or a group of persons. Intellectual property in space means the same as intellectual property on Earth and intellectual property rights that are attainable in space henceforth, are the same as those attainable on Earth. The four most important of these rights are patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets; of these four, patents are the most important when we look at the relevance of these rights in space as patents are rights that safeguard, or give exclusivity of an invention to its inventor for a particular period of time.

What makes intellectual property rights very unique from regular property rights is that regular property rights are generally immovable in nature and attach to objects that are tangible and physically accessible. Intellectual property rights on the other hand attach themselves to intangible ideas, inventiveness or the creativity that exists behind the creation of a piece of technology or even a piece of property. In space, intellectual property may arise in the form of an invention either on board a spacecraft or outside it in the openness of the space environment, it may also be from inventions on celestial bodies.

Click here to read the full article.

Pictures credits : Pixabay

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