Raymond G. Bender, Jr., a retired member of the law firm of Dow Lohnes PLLC, Washington, D.C., is an expert concerning laws and policies affecting the satellite industry and other communications technologies. He currently serves full-time as an arbitrator and mediator in domestic and international cases, including those involving high-tech industry disputes.
Arbitrations involving high-technology products and services can be challenging for even the most experienced arbitrators and seasoned counsel. Such cases often present difficult disputes over complex technical issues and large dollar amounts. The participation of non-U.S. parties introduces added complexity, particularly where the disclosure of sensitive technical information to foreign persons is controlled by statute or administrative regulations.
The satellite industry is one U.S. sector in which the transfer of technical data to foreign recipients is highly regulated. Satellites, launch vehicles and associated equipment have been designated as “defense articles” and thus appear on the U.S. Munitions List. As such, the exportation by U.S. spacecraft manufacturers of U.S. commercial satellites to operators around the world and the disclosure to non-U.S. persons of certain technical data concerning them are strictly controlled under the Department of State’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
Commercial agreements between participants in the satellite industry (such as spacecraft manufacturers, satellite system operators, launch service providers, insurers and others) often include arbitration provisions to govern the resolution of technical and other disputes that could arise between the parties. When satellite industry arbitration involves both U.S. and non-U.S. participants, the arbitrators and counsel must be attuned to the special regulatory requirements that apply to ensure that the arbitration is conducted in accordance with applicable U.S. laws and policies.