- Satellite Evolution
International Trademark Association announces landmark white paper on intellectual property in space
The International Trademark Association (INTA) has published a seminal white paper titled IP in Space. With economic activity in outer space expected to soar in the coming years, this white paper underscores the urgent need to foster and protect intellectual property (IP) in this new frontier.
In the last few years, the private sector has launched numerous rockets, satellites, and even tourist services to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Intensive commercial activity in LEO is anticipated by 2050, as well as in outer space (defined as 100 kilometers (62 miles) above sea level), and on the Moon and Mars. According to The Space Report 2022, from the not-for-profit Space Foundation, the space economy is growing at its fastest pace in many years, reaching a record US $469 billion in annual global spending in 2021. This trend is expected to continue in the years to come.
Introduced by INTA’s IP in Space Project Team Co-Chairs Clark Lackert (World Trade Centers Association, Inc., USA) and Sheja Ehtesham (ALG India Law Offices LLP, India), “Our report seeks to distill complex and somewhat arcane global treaties and national laws into workable, sensible principles and action plans. We believe this is a significant first step for addressing this difficult, yet intriguing, challenge.”
IP laws are the basis for a safe, competitive, and innovative economy. However, as the IP in Space white paper indicates, current national and international laws and treaties governing activity in outer space have not sufficiently contemplated how these important intangible assets may be protected.
“Technology has once again rushed ahead of the law, as commercial plans are regularly announced for new initiatives in space, even though space remains largely a legal vacuum—particularly so in the area of IP,” said 2022 INTA President Zeeger Vink. “We hope that this report may become a cornerstone in the inevitable debate on how to protect IP in space not just for the near future but for the rest of this century and into the next.”
After reviewing current outer space treaties, national laws that relate to outer space, arbitration systems, white papers from the United Nations and the World Intellectual Property Organization, law professor and aerospace executive interviews, and other resources, the Project Team has proposed ten major approaches for further consideration to create a legal infrastructure for IP in space, as detailed in the white paper.
Of the ten approaches, seven are for the creation of rights and three for the enforcement of these rights. Short term (up to 2030) proposals address the expansion of the scope of the Madrid System for the international registration of trademarks to include a new jurisdiction called “Outer Space.” Natural laws, contracts, database creation, court establishment, and arbitration are also addressed. In the medium term (through 2040), space treaties and a new arbitration tribunal are suggested, with long term (through 2050) proposals for an expansion of the previously proposed treaty, as well as IP registries and enforcement.
“This report serves as a wake-up call for international organizations, governments, IP authorities, and, indeed, all stakeholders in both IP and space exploration, to identify and develop fair, transparent, and actionable mechanisms to promote innovation and the protection of IP in outer space,” said INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo.
With rapid economic growth in the global space industry, which may surge to over US $1 trillion by 2040, INTA’s white paper is a timely and necessary blueprint for a legal infrastructure for IP in space.