Handbook of Space Law
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Handbook of Space Law

Edited by Frans von der Dunk

Handbook of Space Law addresses the legal and regulatory aspects of activities in outer space and major space applications from a comprehensive and structured perspective. The book fundamentally addresses the dichotomy between the state-oriented character of international space law and the increasing commercialization and privatization of space activities.
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Chapter 18: Intellectual property rights in the context of space activities

Catherine Doldirina


Intellectual property rights (IPRs) represent one of the most suitable and potentially effective mechanisms to protect the results of developing downstream applications of space activities, particularly in the environment of privatization, commercialization and increased private investment in space activities. IPRs are comprised of various sets of tools to protect distinct subject-matter like trademarks, geographic indications, industrial designs or even traditional knowledge. However, most applicable to the (intellectual or intangible) results of space activities are patents and copyright. Patents are relevant to a great range of space activities, from inventions on board space stations to novel satellite technologies. Copyright is applicable to remote sensing data and information or, in the European context, to databases that contain space-generated data. IPRs evolved as a domestic or national form of protecting intellectual or intangible assets, and territoriality is one of the main characteristics of this legal regime. A diverse and complex set of national regimes, policies, principles and approaches gave rise to a number of international treaties that formulated the agreed approach to the international ramifications of IPR issues. These treaties essentially establish certain levels of mutual recognition and acceptance of national protection in the countries that accede to them, harmonize and unify national provisions as far as feasible, and develop, where appropriate or necessary, new IPR tools to address new developments, activities and relationships. With the development of space activities, IPR regimes of patent and copyright protection became relevant for the actors involved, and some of their rules were specifically adapted to accommodate interests of stakeholders in space activities, as for example with regard to the inventions made aboard the International Space Station. Chapter 18 outlines the main international regimes regarding copyright and patent protection and analyses their impact on major sectors of space activities. It also references some national norms to provide the analysis with a better context, since the enforcement of IPR up to now has often remained a domestic matter and the importance of national IPR protection regimes cannot be discarded.

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