On 31st October, 2023 Centre for Innovation, Intellectual Property and Competition (CIIPC)-IPR Chair, National Law University Delhi (NLU Delhi) in association with International Trademark Association (INTA) organized a symposium titled “India on the Moon: IP in Space” to discuss the crucial intersection of intellectual property and space technology. The symposium aimed to explore the challenges and opportunities related to IP in space and foster dialogue among experts and legal professionals in this emerging field. The event was also live streamed on YouTube to reach a wider audience.
Dr. Yogesh Pai, Associate Professor (Law), Co-Director CIIPC, DPIIT IPR Chair at NLU Delhi, welcomed the participants and introduced the distinguished guests, setting the stage for the symposium. The symposium featured a diverse panel of experts, including Prof. (Dr) Unnat P. Pandit, Hon’ble CGPDTM, Intellectual Property Office, Government of India, Prof. (Dr) Anil Wali, CEO, BITS BioCyTiH Foundation, Ms. Gauri Kumar, India and South Asia Consultant, INTA, Ms. Sheja Ehtesham, Managing Partner, ALG India Law Offices LLP, Ms. Namita Nawani, In-House Counsel, Vistara-Tata SIA Airlines, and Mr. Chinmoy Roy, Senior Legal Officer, Antrix Corporation Ltd.
Prof. (Dr) Unnat P. Pandit inaugurated the symposium with his opening remarks, highlighting the growing significance of IP in space technology, especially in the context of India’s expanding presence in space. He emphasized the need for policy intervention to manage patents, copyrights, trademarks, and designs in the space domain, stressing the importance of a framework for the smooth transfer of technologies and information between agencies.
Prof. (Dr) Anil Wali delivered the keynote address, underscoring several key points related to space technologies and IP. He discussed the uniqueness of space technologies, NASA’s contributions to space activities and the accessibility of NASA’s technologies. Prof. Anil also highlighted India’s initiatives and growth in the Indian space industry. He emphasized that space technologies pose unique challenges not encountered in terrestrial applications, necessitating fresh perspectives in policy intervention. With the shift from government-led to private sector-driven space exploration, he discussed the questions of profitability and IP rights that have become prominent. Prof. Anil praised NASA’s successful technology transfer program, which has led to innovations being commercialized in various industries. He also pointed out similar initiatives by the European Space Agency and the positive impact of India’s 2023 space policy in fostering a thriving ecosystem of space-related startups. Both legacy companies and emerging startups are contributing to the growth of the space industry.
Panel Discussion: “IP Law and Policy in Space: Global Context and Indian Challenges”
The panel discussion focused on the global context and Indian challenges in IP law and policy in space. The panelists included Ms. Sheja Ehtesham, Ms. Namita Nawani, and Mr. Chinmoy Roy with Ms. Gauri Kumar as the moderator. Ms. Gauri Kumar initiated the panel discussion with a question to the panelists: “Has the time arrived to think about Space and Intellectual Property and why now?”
Ms. Ehtesham addressed the relevance of IP in space law, particularly due to the transition from government-led to private sector-driven space exploration. She raised important questions regarding IP protection and registration for space ventures, stressing the need for a legal framework to safeguard brands and IP in outer space. She also discussed international regulations governing outer space and the jurisdiction of the country whose flag is on a space object. She mentioned India’s policy without IP-related provisions and highlighted the potential hindrance posed by a 2017 Space bill that could deter private industry participation due to government ownership of IP developed in outer space. Ms. Ehtesham emphasized the need for a robust IP framework to attract capital and discussed the limitations of the current international framework concerning the circular space economy.
Ms. Nawani emphasized the reliability and liability of private sector involvement in space innovation, especially in relation to government and research institutions. She highlighted the potential role of technology transfer agreements and the differentiation between airlines and aerospace as space tourism expands. Ms. Nawani discussed the use of mechanisms like registration, contracts, confidentiality agreements, material transfer, and licensing models to safeguard IP in technology transfer. She also pointed out the challenges of obtaining patents for space-related innovations due to their specialized nature and materials, emphasizing the potential wastage of these innovations if not utilized by research organizations.
Mr. Roy discussed the significance of space in the context of security, increased private sector involvement, and the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in space. He highlighted potential IP-related issues arising from AI-enabled satellite imagery, the patenting of space technology, IP ownership and licensing, and enforcement challenges in outer space. He outlined three key roles for IP in space: providing protection and rights to space innovators, attracting private capital, and fostering partnerships in space ventures. Mr. Roy suggested the need for standard guidelines and a dispute resolution framework for space-related disputes, emphasizing the importance of strong contractual agreements to prevent complications. He also highlighted the significance of an enforcement mechanism and procedural guidelines for handling disputes in a future space economy, acknowledging the challenges arising from space weapon testing and the potential impacts on outer space assets.
Thereafter, the vote of thanks was delivered by Ms. Nishtha Sharma, Research and Programme Coordinator, CIIPC-IPR Chair NLU Delhi.
The symposium “India on the Moon: IP in Space” provided a platform for in-depth discussions on the intersection of intellectual property and space technology. It underscored the need for a comprehensive and forward-looking legal framework to address the challenges and opportunities in IP in space, especially in the context of India’s growing role in the space industry. The insights shared by the experts and panelists shed light on the complexities of IP in the space domain and the importance of adapting legal frameworks to this rapidly evolving sector.