Intellectual property (IP) is the result of original expressions of ideas, inventions or other creations of the human mind.
The protection for such creations originated during the 15th century, in relation to the development of the printing industry (e.g. in Venice). While the “right to copy” was first a state prerogative, the situation changed in time and legal frameworks granting to authors and inventors exclusive economic rights emerged at national and international level. During the era of development of trade and industrial revolution, the states began to appreciate the benefit of encouraging inventors to create and exploit their works, and to provide an incentive to invest.
The first copyright legislations recognised ownership of a literary or artistic creation and granted exclusive rights of exploitation to authors, aiming at fostering innovation and preventing counterfeiting. IP laws are not static but changed much in following up changes in technology and society.
The extent of IP rights grew rapidly in the last century in particular due to the introduction of satellite telecommunications. It led to cross border exploitation of works, contributed to shaping a digital world and to modernising certain IP rules. Changes in technology create both the greatest challenges and the greatest opportunities for the IP system.
Today the situation has evolved considerably a multibillion-dollar industry is based on the IP protection of performances in multimedia, internet, new services and applications.
The ultimate objective is to recognize value to those who express ideas in an original way or find solutions to technical problems through inventions for the space activities. IP protection is crucial in providing the incentive to develop, exploit and disseminate space technology.
IP has a multiple nature, i.e. it has both a national and international and a consequential application in Outer Space. National and international patents may be filed for inventions created during the preparation and exploitation of Outer space activities.
With the globalization of space activities increasingly under international cooperation schemes, various players operating under different jurisdictions interact. Although national IP laws are relatively well harmonized, they still derive from different principles. Once a dispute arises, each national law regulates questions as to jurisdiction. The lack of a unique reliable international legal regime requires parties to negotiate IP clauses in each international space Agreement.
Due to the advancement of space technology, new business possibilities are emerging and represent additional challenges and opportunities for IP.