ESA and patents

Orbital test satellite, one of the first inventions patented at ESA

ESA’s portfolio of patents contains approximately 450 patent applications and patents for inventions made by ESA staff. They cover subjects such as antennae, satellite attitude control mechanisms, communication equipment and systems, detectors, mechanical engineering, optical communication, power supplies and propulsion systems.

Inventions by ESA staff

Under ESA’s staff regulations inventions by ESA staff members in the course of their duties are the property of ESA and should be declared to the Director General. ESA staff are also required to declare to the Director General any invention produced privately for whatever purpose.

The ESA Patents Manual

The ESA Patents Manual explains how ESA staff should declare a patent and contains guidelines for preparing a description of the invention. In the manual is a standard form for declaring inventions to the Director General and a checklist for the preliminary assessment of the requirement for patent action. Once completed this should be endorsed by the inventor’s head of Department.

Inventions by contractors, for which ESA holds the rights under their contract, should also be declared to ESA using the form contained in the Patents Manual.

ESA Patent Group

The ESA Patent Group studies applications from staff members, or in limited cases from contractors, to file a patent and estimates the patentability of the invention. It then assesses ESA’s interest in filing for a patent.

In addition, the Group makes decisions on behalf of the Director General regarding the countries in which the invention should be protected, as well as the waiver of the rights of the inventor. It also takes decisions on the maintenance or abandonment of the patent.

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