Blockchain is poised to revolutionize almost all business use cases – from supply chains to insurance, manufacturing, healthcare, and much more. One of the areas where this technology is already solving challenges is intellectual property (IP) law.
If you think about it – in their essence blockchain and IP are actually quite similar to one another. They both possess the ability to prove one’s status of having done (or filed) something before anyone else. Intellectual property laws (such as patents and copyright) are based on the incentive theory. This means that the protection given to IP is an incentive for individuals to create and publish works of the mind, and spread them into the public. However, as straightforward as it seems, the adoption of digitally driven business models represents significant challenges facing intellectual property.
“IP rights cannot succeed in their core economic function of incentivizing innovation if rights are disregarded or are too expensive to enforce. Ineffective rights regimes are worse than no rights at all…”
- Professor Ian Hargreaves of Cardiff University, UK back in 2010.
Here are some of the ways how blockchain technology could provide protection to IP rights.
Smart contracts – Blockchain technology could be applied to create the so-called smart IP registries creating an accountable authority that operates as a record of events which can never be changed. This way, we could always know when a given trademark was applied for the first time, registered or first used in trade. It would also resolve the practicalities of collating, storing and providing such evidence.
Managing the IP – Blockchain allows creators to record their copyright ownership of any material on the decentralized network. This way, they could easily track where and how their IP is being used. Moreover, blockchain technology allows them to work out licenses with third parties.
Authentication of IP – Authors can register their work on the blockchain, providing a digital certificate of authenticity and easy tackling of any copyright violations.
Monitoring of IP – It is almost impossible to monitor and control the use of IP once it is being uploaded on the world wide web. This is where blockchain can help by providing a fully updated database for IP owners and giving them access across a host of different sources.
A searchable blockchain database
One of the projects that LimeChain started working with since the beginning of 2018 is Vaultitude— a searchable blockchain database that offers proof of authorship via secure digital publication.
Vaultitiude is solving the challenges with IP by reducing its’ inherent complexity and providing users with a clear overview of their creations. The platform encourages the authors to safeguard all of their work by storing it in a safe digital vault, a central feature of Vaultitude. Further, the user is able to easily and safely acquire proof of their authorship for the practical application of copyrights, make defensive publications, share confidential information, sell or license his work or get in touch with IP professionals to successfully file patents and trademarks. Moreover, Vaultitude publications are accepted as evidence of the innovator’s rights to his work in legal proceedings and as proof of prior art by international patent and trademark offices.
It is hard to deny that the creative world will benefit from applying blockchain technology. However, in order to be closer to the mass adoption, industry leaders and developers must set a good example by collaborating to establish standards and interoperability protocols. Government institutions such as The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) are already actively looking into the capabilities of blockchain; the EU Commission has launched blockchain observatory and the US Congress created a Congressional Blockchain Caucus.