Navigating the Legal Challenges and Opportunities of Space Data Businesses

Topic
Author(s)
Richard Zelenka

Data obtained or derived from space assets has enabled many current products and services, from GPS-driven apps dependent on precise geolocation to supply-chain inventory management systems driven by space-borne imagery. Businesses must access and analyze an exponentially-higher data volume from today, with data frequently obtained from low-Earth orbit small satellite constellations. Managing the resulting "big data" challenges, from throughput, storage, data-analysis, and data mining, is essential to business success but only a piece of the puzzle The legal considerations for data rights and patent rights are also considerable. Incorrect or mismanaged handling of big data can restrain, undermine, and sometimes stop a business. Data right challenges include distinguishing ownership/title from licensing provisions, understanding implications of varied government licensing rights, and resolving disputes over data rights. Patent challenges include bars to patentability, patenting software-related inventions commercially and within a government contract, and patenting of algorithms rooted in machine-learning or artificial intelligence. Through weaving of real-life examples, this presentation will outline the legal challenges of big data in spaceborne businesses and provide practical tips to solve if not gain advantage from those challenges. Rick Zelenka and Karri Palmetier, both practical lawyers with years of government and private sector aerospace experience, will present and lead a discussion. Rick is a practicing patent attorney and a former NASA engineer and Boeing executive, having managed the contractor workforce assisting the USAF with 24/7 operations of the Maui Space Surveillance System. Karri is a practicing attorney specializing in assisting small businesses with government contract concerns and was an associate general counsel with United Launch Alliance, former USAF judge advocate, and COO/GC for a Boulder-based aerospace company.