Some of the more obscure intellectual property rights in existence today apply to items to be used in space. The unique qualities of the environment in space requires specially-made versions of ordinary items which are often impossible to break, damage, or even weaken. Since these items are unique, they can be protected by intellectual property rights.
In Malaysia, IP firms seldom have to deal with this topic today, given the nascent nature of the country’s aerospace industry. However, as aerospace technology all over the world develops and progresses, it will undoubtedly become an important topic for these firms in years to come.
Intellectual Property and Space Activities
In recent times, space activities have become increasingly privatized and commercialized. They are carried out according to the provisions of international cooperation schemes. These schemes require an adequate legal framework for proper operation. In addition, those who stand to profit from the commercialization of these space activities would like to protect their intellectual property through suitable patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Due to the confusion that can arise from the fact that such items are not used on Earth, suitable intellectual property laws and guidelines must exist.
National and Regional Patent Laws in Space
One key issue related to intellectual property rights in space is that of how national and regional patent laws are applied. Ordinary national and regional laws related to intellectual property cannot be applied in space. According to international space laws related to intellectual property rights, the nation in which the patented object is registered has the authority related to the intellectual property rights of that object.
There are no explicit rules or laws governing intellectual property rights in space. In place of these rules or laws, several international agreements related to intellectual property are used to protect these important rights. These agreements define registered space objects as quasi-territory for intellectual property purposes.
Trademarks and Copyrights in Space
At present, there are no avenues to seek protection of intellectual property through trademark protection for inventions sent into space. However, companies involved in the manufacturing of anything which can be used on Earth and in space alike may do so. Someday, commercial trade activities might be conducted in space. If such were to become a reality, the applicability of trademarks in space would likely be greatly expanded.
Works transmitted and received by satellites can receive intellectual property protection in the form of copyright protection. Such protection extends to the protection of copyrighted works which are transmitted by way of unauthorized interception and use. Sometimes, copyright infringement can arise through use of direct broadcast satellite technology. To address such infringements, the Brussels Satellite Convention was formulated.
According to the Brussels Satellite Convention, if the works transmitted and received by satellites adhere to the requirements for copyright registration anywhere in the world, including in Malaysia, they may receive this copyright protection.
Trade Secrets in Space
Any self-sufficient entity which manufactures and operates its own space technology or devices without any external assistance can protect them with trade secrets. In the context of space operations, trade secrets refer to any information held within the entity which may be used in the operation of space-related business activities. To be defined as trade secrets, they must also be valuable enough to provide either potential or actual economic advantages over competitors.
It must never be forgotten that at their core, space activities and items come about through intellectual creation. Thus, it should not be a surprise to find out that they can be protected by intellectual property rights. The protection of innovation is critical to the advancement and success of both present and future space travel, business, and other activities.
This article is brought to you by Exy Intellectual Property