India: Legal Conundrum In The Manned Civil Station: Patenting Woes

Space explorations gained a lot of pace after the successful launch of Sputnik, in 1957. Soon after, there have been many other successful space ventures, including the first man landings on the moon via the Apollo 11 in 1969. Neil Armstrong the first man to walk on the moon uttered the famous words, "That's one step for [a] man, one giant leap for the mankind." In perspective the words were not wrong, the success of the mission inspired many other daring explorations into the outer space.

A spur of growth in space activities resulted in cross-border, bilateral, multinational ventures. One mission that is worth the mention, standing as a base for future experimentation in terms of technological advancement and legal exemplar is the International Space Station. The International Space Station, or ISS, is a prominent example in this front. The commercialization of the space industry is a result of the high costs involved in the technology for realization of big projects; a cooperative venture undertaken between States was the first step towards this form of globalization. As of this date, the ISS has been the most complicated of all the space explorations, politically. This collaboration of the five space agencies, the NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA and the CSA is a habitable civil station, and has been in orbit since 1998.

The ISS has been built with the objective of research and development in the fields of biology and biotechnology, educational activities, earth and space science, human research, the physical sciences, and all the relevant technology which can be utilized in long term space explorations. There already are several patents and partnerships in place which illustrated the benefits of the public investment in the ISS.1

The fact that the ISS is a manned civil station installed in the outer space does not deter the astronauts within the module to work regularly. The control centers are responsible for prioritizing the experiments conducted, monitoring the resources and management of the time in the hands of the astronauts.2

While the race towards the outer space started as an exclusive work front of the national governments, it gradually took into its embrace the private entities. The American aerospace manufacturer, SpaceX3, has been awarded a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services4 contract to launch a system to resupply cargo to the ISS. The goal of the commercial crew and cargo transport capabilities is to "develop reliable means of launching cargo and supplies to the ISS throughout the duration of the facility's operation".5 Through these public private partnerships, it is easier to achieve and develop technology, while saving public capital investment and time factor.

With participation flowing in form of private investments there is also the need for according protection and assuring returns on the investments privately placed by this sector. The present conditions stress on the inventors' claims over their own labor. Today, SpaceX enjoys the reputation of being associated with the noble mission of the ISS, acting as a contractor for developing efficient commercial launch systems. With an increase in the involvement of private players in the domain, claims over intellectual creations are bound to come up in the future.

While the debate is on for the ownership and the granting rights over the inventions made in the outer space, as a consequence the matters of applicable law and jurisdiction are also elements of consideration. Patent laws are strictly territorial in nature, it is understood that patented invention enjoys monopoly and protection against infringement only within the territory which grants it those rights in the first place. On the other hand, space is an extra-terrestrial domain, where the national laws are not applicable and the international principles prevail.

If we rely on the Outer Space Treaty,6 we are to understand that the outer space is open to all mankind, and cannot be appropriated by claims of sovereignty of the nations. The Treaty also provides for the jurisdiction and the control of the space vehicle to be awarded to the registering state (Article VIII provisions). While we are to understand that the control extends to the personnel within the space vehicles, are the provisions enough to take into consideration the infringement matters too?

If we look at the example of the ISS, special attention must be given to the ESA, which has participation from about 10 states, and not all the 21 ESA member states. Where a dispute of patent infringement arises on the ESA module of the manned civil station, it is open for the aggrieved to bring action against the infringer in any of the participating member states of the ESA. This also gives way to instances of forum shopping, where the aggrieved will always look for the most favorable jurisdiction to put forth his claims.

The United States was the first nation to explicitly extend the application of its patent laws into the outer space, through § 105 Inventions in Outer Space.7 Other follow the suit, with Germany first letting its patent laws be applicable by de facto provisions. While the Article 21 of the IGA gives a clear mandate to the state of registration of a space station flight element, to extend the scope of its 'national' patent law to the activities occurring in the particular element, we are yet to achieve uniformity in the applicable law.

As of now, the NASA has contracts with private entities; soon enough there will be many other international arrangements with the other space agencies opening up. As we progress with the evolution of the ISS we stand to witness many potential legal threats, and hopefully all of it will guide us towards the onslaught of a uniform patent regime.

1 , Visited April 27, 2015.

2 European Space Agency, Columbus: A New European Science Laboratory in Earth Orbit, Oct. 2007.

3 Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, SpaceX, is an American aerospace manufacturer, which also provides services of space transport. See more at, , Visited April 24, 2015.

4 Human Space Flight Transition Plan, p. 23. See also at, , Visited April 24, 2015.

5 National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act, 2010, Sec. 401 and 402.

6 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies, Oct. 10, 1967, 18 U.S.T. 2410, 610 U.N.T.S. 205.

7 35 U.S.C. 105, Inventions in Outer Space, Pub. L. No. 101-580, § 105, 104 Stat. 2863 (1990).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions