A fact pattern we see all too often is a former employee claiming an ownership interest in or over software or intellectual property (IP) developed by or for a former employer. Typically, this occurs with the former employee attempting to exploit a real or perceived ambiguity in his or her employment relationship with the employer—i.e., ambiguity regarding the former employee’s status as either an employee or an independent contractor.
Space is rapidly commercializing. In commercial markets, the protection of intellectual property is key to establishing and maintaining a competitive advantage. As space is increasingly reliant on computer-based systems, software protection has become a foremost concern. While copyrights have long been associated with the protection of software, copyrights alone fail to protect the functional aspects of code. Patents must be considered and utilized in conjunction with copyrights to provide companies with a defensible competitive advantage.
Space is a whole different ball game for IP rights. Securing IP rights means navigating a host of convoluted international rules and regulations, all of which are increasingly under enormous pressure to change as a result of both the commercialization of space and the population of space with myriad new members, facts which operate to continually morph the topology of evolving space law.
Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are commonly known as “intellectual property” or IP. As occasional high-profile lawsuits between large corporations illustrate, IP can be extremely valuable, causing companies to budget significant amounts of money to acquire, defend, and assert IP rights. The concept of IP can be controversial, prompting various constituencies to condemn the entire idea (e.g., as dampening innovation or hampering individuals and smaller entities), or to object to the vast sums spent on high-profile lawsuits and their resulting awards/settlement.
IP is for tech companies. Every company possesses Intellectual Property. A misconception exists that IP is only for tech companies such as Apple or Intel and IP is only about patents. Not true. 100% of companies possess IP. IP is not just about patents but also includes protecting a company’s brand, is creative work and trade secrets.