Author:- Neha Ladhani
DIMENSIONS OF IPR IN THIS REGARD
How interesting it sounds no! Having a piece of moon in your name. But is it even possible? And even if possible, how practical it is? We generally buy property from someone who already owns it in his/her name, but when the question of the moon or any other celestial body arises they are not owned by anyone. So, how can such property be sold or bought? Isn’t the whole concept vague or are there any dimensions that are making it possible for people to buy a piece or pieces of the moon? After the demise of the well known Bollywood actor, Sushant Singh Rajput, a piece of news got circulated on various news platforms that the actor owned a piece of the moon. People found it very interesting and were keen to know if they can also buy some, like their favourite star.
The truth of the whole concept is different. In 1967, a treaty was signed by UK, USA and the Soviet Union namely, “The Outer Space Treaty”. This treaty was signed by the nations to prevent any single nation to have control over the natural satellite of Earth and considered the moon and other celestial objects to be an entity of all humanity and so should be used by all and not any single nation, as that nation can use such space object for evil purpose too.
So, India being party to such a treaty also has no right to buy such a piece of the moon or any space object. But people are there who have bought so. If I quote the Experts they would say that “It is nothing but just an overpriced piece of paper.” Then, IPR and treaties have a role here to play. Let us know in detail.
CLAIMS OF LAND OR PROPERTY IN SPACE
Outer space which is commonly referred to as space is considered to be that part that is beyond the Karman Line. Outer Space Treaty,1967, has expressly prohibited ownership of any celestial object by states. But the confusion has been created about the rights of property by private individuals on the moon? As discussed above many celebrities have bought land on the moon of which some are Dennis hope and Gregory Nemitz.
Dennis Hope is the one who filed for ownership rights on the moon with the US, UN and USSR and after getting no reply he just assumed his ownership and started accompany called “Lunar Embassy”. He argued that the Outer Space treaty only restricts the nations to own the property in outer space and not the individuals or company.
Hope has gone a step ahead and started selling property on the moon and other celestial bodies. Any citizen can buy the property for around 20 $ on the moon and approximately 19 $ for one acre of land on Mercury, Venus and Mars. Three documents are provided after paying this amount- a deed, a map, and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights which Hope himself has formulated. A short story is also provided namely “You Own What?” which includes the declaration of ownership filed with the US, the USSR, and the UN.
When asked to Hope how he assumed the silence of the signatories as their recognition of his claim he said he did what he was supposed to do and they should do or have done what they think is appropriate. Around 6 million people have so far purchased the land from “Lunar Embassy” including some celebrities and NASA employees. However, the issue for Hope is the settlement claim on the moon as with present technology it is not possible to visit the moon and get settled there. Maybe this is the reason why such big signatories like the US, UN and USSR have not entertained his claim, thinking it to be too childish to focus on. But, it indeed has created confusion in the minds of many.
IPR IN OUTER SPACE
IPR stands for Intellectual Property Rights. These rights arise when there is a new intangible invention or creation of the human mind. Intellectual rights are necessary to protect one’s ideas and giving the inventor the due credit which deserves. It includes Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks, etc. as technology is increasing day by day we can witness a significant increase in the activities which take place outside the Earth or what we call space. So, there arose a need to protect such activities under IPR. Some examples are discussed below which explain the domain of IPR in space.
- TRADE SECRETS
It means such information which companies hide with the motive to earn more than others or which they consider to being too crucial to get leaked. Such companies are self-sufficient to do their research and manufacture devices and that operates the same in outer space.
Here, the matter of jurisdiction is considered as the technology was developed or operated before being launched into space. The Outer Space Treaty mentions that the place where or the nation in which such technology is developed or registered will be considered patentee and have rights over such technology in the region without law such as space.
Under this reception and transmission of signals received from satellites are protected from unauthorized interception. Article 22 of the International Telecommunications Convention requires states to keep certain telecommunication secrets but it doesn’t have any certain relevance with the interception of satellite signals.
OUTER SPACE TREATY, 1967
The Outer space treaty being the first international document lays down the basis of space law.
ARTICLE 1: it talks about free use and exploration of space by all the states.
ARTICLE 2: deals with the condition that no state can claim outer space by any means.
ARTICLE 3: talks about the rules of international law and the charter of the UN to be followed while carrying out any activity in space by nations.
ARTICLE 4: this article restricts the activities of the nations for peaceful purposes only.
ARTICLE 6: states that the nations are responsible for all the governmental and non-governmental activities which take place in space and lays a duty on states to supervise all the activities of non-governmental entities in space.
ARTICLE 7: this article holds the launching state liable for the activities which cause any damages to the third party. It may be an aircraft, surface of the earth, any object in outer space, etc.
ARTICLE 8: this article provides for the registration of any space object in outer space, which will ensure the jurisdictional control of the state in which such space object is registered.
COUNTRIES HAVING IPR LAW COMPATIBLE WITH THE SPACE LAWS
It can be seen that only the US and the NASA Act have explicitly applied the statutory provisions of the domestic IPR law to outer space. US space bill extends its patent law applicability in outer space. NASA has successfully developed an intellectual property policy that worked well to protect the proprietary interest.
European Space Agency has also drawn some rules governing intellectual property. It files around 20 patent applications about inventions by its staff members. Moreover, they have chosen to protect their programs by registered trademarks e.g. Arianne Program.
When comes to India, like many other countries it does not have any specific IPR law concerning space and is being thus regulated by various international agreements and treaties.
IMPORTANCE OF HARMONIZING IPR AND SPACE LAW
When comes to inventions and discovery there is no limit to it as such and so it becomes important to protect the same. This is where IPR plays an important role. However, there is no such common International law on IPR that help to guide the activities in space in the right manner. Thus, leading to the conflict of laws of different nations. World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) have somewhat solved this problem, but there is a long way to go. Thus, requiring the need to harmonize the IPR and Space Laws.
In this case, the Appellant claims his property rights on asteroid 433, “EROS”. The appellant has claimed that his ownership of the asteroid is based on his registration on the Archimedes Institute Website and the filing of the California Uniform Commercial Code security interest in which he has named himself both as creditor and debtor.
The issue of claim arose on the landing of NASA’s spacecraft on 12th February, 2001. The appellant claimed that this activity of NASA has infringed his private property rights and thus, he should be compensated for the same.
He also claimed that according to the Outer Space Treaty he is not restricted to own any celestial body and so the applicability of this treaty is of no means.
The state responded that to occupy property it is necessary to establish that there is a use or occupation practised on that property and there is no such ownership right produced but he has assumed such rights.
The conclusion from the case can be taken is that there exists no such private property right in space. However, this case is important from the aspect that it was the first of its kind, before that there were only claims but a formal suit for a claim was filed for the very first time.
From all the above-mentioned text we can conclude that buying and selling property in outer space is not legally permissible and is morally incorrect too. Nature is our common heritage, it is for res communis and not res nullius. But, still, there are people who claim to have bought land on the moon and other celestial bodies which is nothing more than a piece of paper as these people can not go there and use it or get settle there with the present technology. However, taking into consideration the increasing technology and rapid developments we can have a prediction of it being possible one day and like today Bitcoin suddenly got a boost may be in the near future this land on moon claim may also lead its claimants to the heights. But in all this IPR will be there in need to protect the real owners /inventors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Neha Ladhani, 4th year law student, pursuing law from GLS law College Ahmedaba, having a career brightening experience with this article writing internship into the different domains of law and reaching those who love researching new domains.
 R. Kelly, ‘NEMITZ v. UNITED STATES, A CASE OF FIRST IMPRESSION: APPROPRIATION, PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS AND SPACE LAW BEFORE THE FEDERAL COURTS OF THE UNITED STATES’  297