Posts Tagged NASA
In celebration of NASA’s amazing, successful landing, check out these Curiosity rover patents! Congratulations to everyone at NASA, JPL, CalTech, Malin Space Science Systems, SwRI, ULA and everyone else involved in making this mission such a success!
Above is US design patent #D505,105 “Skycrane Landing System.” It covers the ornamental design of the celebrated skycrane!
Good and bad. Heaven and hell. Ice cream and Brussels sprouts. Falcon 9 and paper rockets. Space Act agreements and government procurement contracts. Popular opinion seems to clump NASA Space Act Agreements (SAAs) in with all that is good and right with the world while traditional FAR-based contracting is viewed as something to be avoided. In order to find out why space act agreements are viewed so positively, let’s take a look at what an SAA is, the different flavors they come in and what they’re used for.
My favorite NASA image is AS8-14-2383, taken by William Anders on Christmas Eve, 1968. More commonly known as Earthrise, this photograph was taken the very first time humans orbited the Moon! The image of the Earth as a pale blue dot rising over the desolate surface of the Moon has been credited with birthing the environmental movement. Earthrise is a public domain image, free for use by anyone because the photograph was taken by a US astronaut on a NASA mission. Under the copyright law of the time, the federal government could not claim copyright in photos, writings, movies, and other creative works it made. The same holds true in modern copyright law. 17 USC §105 denies copyright protection for works produced by the federal government.
Earthrise has been copied, revised, adapted for other media, integrated into other pictures, and modified countless times by a multitude of people. Similarly, other NASA images, like the beautiful pictures captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, are often wildly popular in their original forms as well as inspiration for modified creative endeavors. Despite using an image not granted copyright protections, makers of pieces based in whole or in part on government creations may have limited copyright protection because they have produced “derivative” or “compilation” works.
Even though it doesn’t have any legs (yet), Robonaut 2 is making great strides on the International Space Station. After months of resting comfortably in the newly installed Permanent Multipurpose Module, Robonaut 2, or R2 as it is more affectionately known, has taken a giant leap for robot kind. On May 2nd, R2 began serving the ISS crew in its mission to perform tasks which are too dangerous or mundane for ISS astronauts to perform. The semi-autonomous robot’s first task is to monitor air velocity from station vents. This is perhaps a lowly beginning for space robots, but a necessary step for the currently legless anthropomorphic creation.
R2 is the product of a successful development partnership between automotive giant GM and space exploration behemoth NASA. In addition to flying the first humanoid robot to space, more than 40 patents and patent applications have blossomed from the R2 development program. Like many other private company/government agency relationships, the partnership between GM and NASA was heavily influenced by federal laws that govern the agency involved. GM and NASA entered into a Space Act Agreement (SAA). The structure of the SAA was chosen in part to ensure that GM could protect and retain an interest in the intellectual property they developed while working with NASA on next-generation robots.
Pierce Brosnan declared the plot of his 1999 James Bond film The World is Not Enough convoluted and mystifying, a suitable description of Cold War villain-based movies more than a decade after the Cold War had effectively expired from hypothermia. At first glance, “convoluted and mystifying” is also an apt description for licensing deals. The beauty of a license is also its curse. You can make the license look almost any way you want, granting virtually unlimited rights or giving only the slimmest of rights to use the covered invention in Palatka, Florida on the 3rd Tuesday of every month. It is extremely important to consider each and every word in a license agreement in terms of how the technology involved will actually be used. For example, consider the following language that might appear in an R&D contract for the development of a new type of RCS thruster for satellites: the Satellite Manufacturer “shall retain a nonexclusive royalty-free license [to the developed technology] throughout the world.” What good does a merely worldwide license for a new RCS thruster do a satellite manufacturer? They need a license that actually applies to where they will use the developed technology: outer space. Read the rest of this entry »
In 2011, NASA used the SBIR program to funnel over $150 million to small business to carry out research and development. Phase I grants of up to $150,000, Phase II grants of up to $1,000,000, and follow on Phase III grants are available to qualified companies. Since 1982, nearly 18,000 companies have participated in the SBIR program and over 67,500 patents have issued on SBIR-funded technologies. SBIR grants represent a great way for small aerospace companies to receive research and development dollars. Many of the technologies NASA wishes to develop through SBIR grants are directly in line with or closely related to the development paths of commercial spaceflight companies. Because these technologies are closely related to technologies small commercial spaceflight and space services companies wish to develop, ideally companies participating in the SBIR program will retain patent rights or a license to utilize the technologies they have developed under an SBIR grant. Luckily, NASA’s SBIR contracts include the contract provision FAR 52.227-11, which provides a clear path for retaining IP rights in SBIR funded technologies. Read the rest of this entry »
NASA has taken some pretty awesome pictures over the years. In order to capture these amazing photos, NASA has spent billions of dollars on telescopes, robotic missions, and manned missions. Because it was so expensive to produce these photos, it must be pretty expensive for private individuals to use them, right? Companies like Universal sue downloaders in order to defend their copyrights in box-office failurs like Waterworld, after all, so NASA must be trying to protect their investment too! Wrong.
NASA is a government agency, and new material they create, like photos, which would be subject to copyright protection if made by a group like Universal, is explicitly excluded from copyright protection under the law. Specifically, 17 USC §105 states: