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Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart PLLC
Newsletter – Volume 21, Issue 20

Out of this World Inventing

By John P. Guenther

In the past, space travel was something only imagined as part of government agencies such as NASA.  If someone dreamed of going into space, they needed to be an astronaut.
But times have changed and the private space sector has grown by leaps and bounds.  Companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin are racing to put billionaire owners and private citizens into orbit.  We are nearing a point where ordinary people will be traveling into outer space with the same relative ease as an international flight.

Patent rights generally exist on a country-by-country basis.  Every country’s jurisdiction is based on its geography and extends upward some vertical distance. Once you go above that distance, the laws of space come into play.

So, what happens if a maverick billionaire, or even an average citizen, travels into outer space and invents something on a spaceship, or if a person is working on an orbiting space station?  What patent jurisdiction and rules apply?

Well, there is actually a provision in the United States Code, 35 U.S.C. Section 105, that covers inventions in outer space.

This federal statute provides that any invention made, used, or sold in outer space on a space object under the jurisdiction or control of the United States shall be considered within the United States.  There are some specific exceptions for when there is an international agreement to which the United States is a party, or for space objects listed on the registry of a foreign state.

Also, pursuant to international agreements and national laws, the country in which a space object is registered retains control and jurisdiction, including patent jurisdiction, over the space object.  Relatedly, the U.S. and other countries have ratified treaties that require a launching State to register space objects, including those launched from a territory of a State. An international agreement concerning the International Space Station (ISS) specifically provides that patent jurisdiction over activities on the Station is deemed to have occurred in the territory of the country in which the module of the ISS is registered. So, for purposes of patent jurisdiction, a person on board the U.S. module of the ISS, is effectively in the United States.

So, if you invent or practice an invention in outer space, take careful note of the registration of the ship or station (or module) you are in. For terrestrial inventors, you can check out our white paper on patent development HERE.


Published October 1, 2021

Hot Off the Presses: Stahls’ Helps Small Businesses with Scholarship Program

The Our long-standing client, Stahls’ Inc., and its affiliates, are the largest manufacturers of materials, equipment and supplies in field of decorating textile and other products through the application thereto of letters, numbers, graphics, artwork and designs. Since its inception in 1932, Stahls’ has grown to be the standard in its industry for the most innovative and highest quality products and services in this field.  One category of these products is heat presses, which are used with the application of heat to transfer these decorative elements onto apparel and other textile products. Today, Stahls’ is giving back to the community by offering help to small businesses across the nation with its Family Small Business Fund and Heat Press Scholarships.

These programs are uniquely designed to assist apparel decorators start and grow their businesses. Selected winners receive a brand-new professional heat press, as well as a start-up package and coaching sessions. Most importantly, winners are assigned their own personal mentor and receive at least six personalized training classes from experts at Stahls’. Fishman Stewart is pleased to report the good work that Stahls’ is doing on behalf of the community.

If you or someone you know could benefit from Stahls’ Family Small Business Fund and Heat Press Scholarships, or if you would like to partner with Stahls’ philanthropic efforts, more information is available at the following link: