Washington International Law Journal


This comment critically analyzes international space law in the context of intellectual property. The issues explored, current and future, are at the crossroads of the international space legal framework and U.S. intellectual property law. The first stage of the analysis includes a brief history of space law, introducing the U.N. treaties on space activities and taking a hard look at the founding principles they enshrine. An analytical overview of the International Space Station Agreement follows, introducing the present application of space law to issues of intellectual property. This overview further considers the fundamental principles of U.S. intellectual property, especially patent law, including the peculiar mandate of the Patents in Space Act. Both preceding sections highlight issues specifically affecting intellectual property and its development or enforcement in outer space and reveal the ramifications of this complex topic. After dissecting the relevant legal norms, the comment explores the future of the interaction between space and intellectual property, building upon the preceding critical approach to examine two issues: orbital patents and flags of convenience for patent infringers in space. Having delineated a number of interpretive problems that scarcely find comfort in the language of the applicable law, the comment concludes that commercial development and innovation in outer space will either require an update of international space law principles or a conscious disregard of its provisions.

First Page