Intellectual Property Blockchain ... The Future Has Just Begun

31 Jul 2018

By: Motasem H. Abu Ghazaleh

Labelled by experts and visionaries as the future of everything, the Blockchain technology is destined to change the way we look at this world which has been struggling with technology that is insecure, outdated and ancient with many "patiently" waiting for Blockchain to become the new Internet. 

The Internet defines this new technology as a shared Register that records transactions between two or more parties efficiently, cost effectively and in a verifiable manner and despite being highly praised and considered the most unsettling technology of our time, still it is the least comprehended. 

Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin can be best described as a ledger that after being installed, can be found on every device and whenever the ledger is changed, the information is updated on each device that has this ledger installed, in other words it allows digital information to be distributed but not copied.  

Blockchain has been destined to be involved in almost all sectors and Intellectual Property (IP) is one of them.  
It is just unthinkable or even imaginable that, by the year 2030, every time an IP owner would like to register a trademark in a given country, he or she will send instructions by e-mail along with required documents to an agent in this jurisdiction who will file this application at the local trademark office, pay official fees and report back to the owner. Sending bills and paying through bank transfers with all the exchange rate and difficulties will make this future scenario close to impossible, not after all what we have seen in the last few years of the tsunami of new technologies and applications, like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet Of Things (IOT)…etc.

Intellectual Property
Trademarks, Patents, Designs, Copyright, Design of Integrated Circuits, Plant Varieties and Geographical Indications represent what is known as Intellectual Property Rights, which are all intangible assets and for the global giant players, it is the most valuable asset. 

These assets are recorded in a country’s “Registry” to demonstrate ownership of these assets.  Currently, this Registry is the only evidence of ownership that this jurisdiction(s) can provide to the IP owners.
In short, the current business model of communicating and protecting IP rights today is as follows: (IP owner) → (IP Agent) → (IP local offices) → (IP Agent) → (IP holder), which may appear functional and was relatively effective during the last few hundred years, but unlikely to last within the coming 10-20 years due to inherent inefficiencies.

IP Blockchain
In its simple form, the Blockchain is a shared peer-to-peer digital “Register.”  It is cost effective, requires minimal or no human interaction, resilient to fraud, not owned or governed by a single user, and decentralized (just like the Internet) to track assets and transactions.

This “Register” can be developed to catalogue any assets, like real estate, art, diamonds, or even photos. These are all assets, just like IP.

Similarly, if a corporation, for example, would like to register a trademark by filing the mark in a given country “Transaction” nominating logo, class, applicant country…etc, this new application “Transaction” can also be recorded on the Blockchain. This “transaction” is broadcasted to all “nodes” which triggers the “algorithms” to do their magic in verifying the transaction. Algorithms and AI tools to be built here is with no limit and can and will handle any kind of requirements. 

Smart Contracts is a major component of Blockchain technology, which adds functionality to facilitate the automatic execution and enforcement of contract terms for IP License, Franchise, Assignments, Merger, Pledge, among others. The terms of the contract are pre-programmed so that the burden of administering contract terms is reduced. 

And finally while most importantly, using Cryptocurrencies for completing all these transactions. This can be done by having a special crypto currency for IP, i.e., “IPCoin” or a token with fixed amount “TMToken”.

IP Forthcoming
For the sake of clarification, this section focuses on trademark registration; however, this discussion equally applies to all forms of IP. There are major leading international agencies responsible for maintaining TM records, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), Japan Patent Office (JPO) and the most advanced global TM system, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Theoretically, any of these agencies, for example, WIPO, can develop a new TM Blockchain, with existing records, while allowing new registrations recorded on its Blockchain.  

Building on such an achievement, WIPO member states may issue legislation that recognize and acknowledge this new shared digital “Register” as a legal stamp of approval for IP filings around the world. The idea is that existing government regulatory agencies will use WIPO Databases as a solution for improving their current IP filing systems. Local governments can substitute their local national registers with the WIPO Blockchain to reduce redundancy, expenses and inefficiency.  

National regulatory agencies can also develop policies and legislation that further nurture, facilitate and integrate Blockchain technology in their jurisdiction to have a full integrated network.

In Conclusion
The application of Blockchain technology to the registration and recordation of IP assets is an effective solution to reducing inherent inefficiencies in the current process.  Countries stand to benefit by saving a lot of effort, time, resources and money.  There will no longer be a need for local IP offices to handle these tasks anymore, while still receiving all the benefits at zero cost.

Perhaps one day, the world will end up with a “Shared Digital Global TM Register” that is used and enforced around the world while examination and other procedures are managed by AI, transactions are ruled by smart contracts and official fees and other fees are paid by cryptocurrency.  Only time will tell.

Live with it, good luck IP and enjoy the ride

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