Beijing Court Says No Moon Sales
The "Lunar Embassy of China," a company selling land on the moon, lost the first round in a battle against an earthly government bureau on Friday.
The Haidian District Court in Beijing ruled against the company's lawsuit to win back its business licence that was suspended by the city's industry and commerce watchdog.
The Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce (BAIC) clamped down on the company last October for "speculation and profiteering," and blacklisted it as one of the city's top 10 false advertisers in 2005.
The verdict is the first handed down in the case. Legitimacy over lunar ownership and sales was at the core of the dispute during the past two hearings.
The plaintiff, Li Jie, chief executive of the Beijing Lunar Village Aeronautics Science and Technology Co Ltd, claimed his company was legal as it was authorized by the US Lunar Embassy and registered at the BAIC in September 2005.
Dennis Hope, a US entrepreneur, founded the US Lunar Embassy in 1980 by registering his claim to the surface of the moon and eight other planets with the US Government.
Millions of people have bought lunar "land" from Hope, according to media reports.
Li quoted the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty to prove the legitimacy of his assertion. "The treaty forbids governments from owning extraterrestrial property, but it doesn't mention corporations or individuals," said Li.
But the BAIC refuted Li's interpretation as groundless, saying the treaty ruled out the possibility of any ownership of the moon. In addition, the BAIC said that Li's money-making business violated the treaty, which stipulates that any exploitation of outer space should benefit all human beings.
The administration defines Li's business as speculation and profiteering, which means illegally seeking profit by making use of legal loopholes and trading commodities actually restricted by relevant laws.
Li's company was shut down three days after it opened in September 2005.
Thirty-three people bought 49 acres of land on the moon at a price of 298 yuan (US$37) per acre, and most of them gave the land to their friends as a gift, said Li.
Buyers received deeds, a site map, a copy of the "lunar bill of rights" and a copy of Hope's declaration of ownership filed with the US Government.
Li, 42, who claims to be an inventor and owner of seven patents, said he had lost about 1 million yuan (US$125,000) in the lunar real estate business. He spent about 300,000 yuan (US$27,500) booking 110,000 acres of lunar land from Hope.
"I will go to the Supreme People's Court until I win back the right to do so," Li said.
Li got involved in a new lawsuit this week after his latest attempt to sell "World Cup air" was halted by the local trade bureau.
He sought a permit to sell "World Cup air" for 50 yuan (US$6.3) a bag to football enthusiasts unable to make the trip to Germany this year.