A rapidly growing ecosystem of companies is looking at how blockchain technology can be used to improve the administration and enforcement of IP rights across multiple jurisdictions. The Blockchain and Intellectual Property Law field is numerous and could impact both the governance of IP rights and the IP industry itself.
Blockchain for registered and unregistered rights could arguably be used to provide proof of creation, existence, ownership and/or first use, to register IP rights, to facilitate the administration and management of IP rights on a global scale, thereby potentially contributing to the emergence of “global IP chains” and to enforce IP rights and fight counterfeits in a more efficient way.
While applications of blockchain technology could help to alleviate some of the challenges that rights-holders face, the technology will not solve all issues. But one thing is certain: the disruptive nature of the technology, the multiplicity of potential applications emerging, and their practical and legal implications deserve the attention of regulators and legislators.
There are four primary types of IP protection: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Therefore, an IP protection strategy must include an understanding of the scope of each type of protection and how it can be applied to a specific innovation. Clients seeking the assistance of an IP attorney are usually able to identify the “property” that they would like to protect.
A patent can protect a machine, process, or article of manufacture. A U.S. patent holder has the right to exclude all others in the United States from making, using, selling, offering for sale, importing, and, in some cases exporting, implementations of their claimed invention for the duration of the patent (typically, approximately 20 years). This is an exceptionally powerful right, granted by the U.S. government that is given to the inventor in exchange for the public disclosure of their invention. While patents are a flexible and powerful form of IP, they are also usually the most expensive and most difficult to obtain due to the fact that a relatively protracted application process is required. Owners of pending patent applications may mark commercial embodiments of those inventions as “patent pending,” which can provide some competitive advantages against potential copiers during the patent process.
Copyright exists in any original work of authorship (e.g., literary, musical, architectural, and pictorial works) that has been fixed in a tangible medium (e.g., a book, a photograph, a compact disc, or a digital memory device). The holder of a copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, prepare derivatives of, and digitally transmit the work, and may also mark works with a copyright notice.
Computer programs and databases are considered literary works as it relates to copyright laws. While it is useful to keep and maintain copyrights in software source code and database schema and contents, especially since there is little effort needed to obtain the copyright in the first place (e.g., original authorship and a fixed medium), the protection provided by a copyright is somewhat limited and primarily intended to prevent true piracy as opposed to mere imitation.
A trademark is a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, color, or combination thereof that is used to identify the source of goods or services bearing the mark. A trademark holder has an exclusive right to mark goods and services with the mark in order to put consumers on notice of their source, and the duration of a trademark that is continuously maintained and used by the mark holder is indefinite.
There are no significant software-specific considerations with trademarks. Trademarks should be considered for software application names or logos that an owner would like to distinguish from other applications.
4. Trade Secrets
A trade secret is: (1) any information (e.g., a process, formula, design, instrument, pattern, method, or compilation of information), (2) that the holder has taken reasonable measures to keep secret and (3) that derives independent economic value from being neither publicly known nor readily ascertainable by proper means by those who can make economic use of it.
A software application should be evaluated early in its development to determine the extent to which it can be maintained as a trade secret. Where important software features are embodied in user-facing or clientside processes, relying upon patent protection may be the better option. Where features or databases containing important information are kept server-side, maintaining them with a high level of security, encryption, and access control may allow them to be kept as trade secrets indefinitely.
With the current influx of investment in blockchain technology, growing popularity across a wide variety of industries, and the recent upsurge of blockchain and intellectual property law, this space is poised for significant growth in the years to come. Many have likened Blockchain’s revolution to the early days of the internet, poised to be the very next iteration of disruptive technology. There are many firms looking to be at the forefront of adopting blockchain, from startups to Fortune 500 giants, and with the right investments in intellectual property, as well as smart partnerships, these organizations can position themselves for success in the promising new world of blockchain.
Want to know more about Blockchain and Intellectual Property law and its implications in your business? Request for a free quote to reach out to us on [email protected] and our experts will get back to you with the best solution for your business.
The blockchain in retail market size is expected to grow from US $80.0 million in 2018 to US $2,339.5 million by 2023, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 96.4% during the forecast period. The blockchain in retail market is driven by the growing need for increased efficiency and speed in retail and supply chain transactions and focus on preventing fraudulent activities in the retail industry.
Value Drivers for Blockchain in Retail
Provenance/Authenticity Blockchain’s initial impact focuses on sanctioning retailers to produce a lot of reliable data to customers, who notably for a few product classes – more and more base their purchase choices on product content, origins, purity, and authenticity. Currently, counterfeit or contaminated product actual an enormous toll within the type of lost sales and whole injury, caused partially by the problem customers have in differentiating fakes from the real thing. Recently, retailers have recognized the gravity of this issue. In fact, Amazon has begun taking counterfeit resellers to court. Using blockchain technology, retailers will offer customers with indisputable proof of the birthplace and credibility of their product at each step within the offer chain. One sneaker manufacturer, as an example, is using blockchain and 3D-printed smart tags, scannable by a smartphone, to prove product authenticity.
More Secure Transactions, Faster Settlement A second promising application lies in transaction settlements. Today, each player within the retail price chain pays a steep value to make sure the validity of the exchange of products, cash, and knowledge. They must compensate third parties for his or her services and stay up for every to complete its work before receiving payment or a dealings confirmation. Blockchain-based secure transactions will cut back the requirement for such third parties. By guaranteeing business transactions, substantially reducing fraud and increasing the efficiency of business partnerships, blockchain would free significant resources that can be redirected to more innovative and valuable ways of working across the value chain.
Supply Chain Visibility Blockchain can also dramatically improve visibility into advanced retail offer chains, like data on product standing and placement. Retailers and distributors these days should reconcile data from multiple systems and use this knowledge to optimize inventory levels. In many provide chains, this lack of visibility causes over-ordering upstream, which ends up within the bullwhip effect: demand-supply variability that may inflate prices significantly for upstream provide chain partners. The visibility provided by the ever-present data obtainable on a blockchain will greatly cut back these prices. Blockchain-enabled user access management will guarantee proprietary data is protected by limiting permission to look at or modify knowledge to the suitable parties. The level of blockchain’s granular management through permissions is comparable to what’s provided by gift systems these days however at a way lower price.
Networked Loyalty Programs Many firms area unit broadening their shopper loyalty programs to hide multiple brands. For instance, airlines provide passengers a chance to earn further points for rental an automotive from the most well-liked venders, or shoppers at a grocery chain get discounts on gasoline at affiliated stations. The noncurrent technology that tracks loyalty points imposes high prices and delays on collaborating merchants and customers. Legacy mainframes will take days to method transactions, forcing customers to attend for points to post to their account. The use of blockchain will create following these points quicker, cheaper, safer and far a lot visible to reach the house owners of the points and therefore the firms’ provision to them.
The rapid pace of improvements in blockchain technology means that within one to two years blockchain could replace processes and provide a solution to many of the challenges faced by the industry today. Retailers face another such inflection point with blockchain. Its ability to deliver inexpensive, secure sharing of information and value will drive game-changing benefits as discussed above. Early movers might gain the lion’s share of the advantage by not solely availing themselves of those advantages, however additionally mitigating blockchain limitations and characteristic key building blocks for additional value creation.
While music lovers have welcomed digitisation as the democracy of the industry, music industry has remained the same. Piracy through illegally downloaded content digs into the artist’s royalties and labels’ revenue. To add to this is the lack of a rights management system, which leads to loss of revenue to the artist and company. The revenue takes abnormally long time to reach the artiste. Area of concern is unpaid royalties, which are often suspended in various stages due to missing information or rights ownership
Artists are also suffering by a lack of sales transparency where although Digital Service Providers report a huge volume of transactions, they end up receiving payment for only 20 to 40 percent of these transactions. This has led to several artists choosing to keep their music off such on-demand streaming services, causing notable gaps in the libraries of popular
These very areas are where Blockchain can make a difference. As a publically assessable and decentralised database that is distributed across the internet, Blockchain maintains permanent and undeletable records in cryptographic form. Transactions occur across a peer-to-peer network, and are computed, verified and recorded using an automated consensus method, eliminating the need for an intermediate or third party to manage or control information. The very architecture of Blockchain being distributed and peer-to-peer brings immense potential to deal with the present woes affecting the music industry.
DIGITAL RIGHTS DATABASES
A main area in which Blockchain can bring immense and positive change is in the creation of a digital rights database. Digital rights expression is one of the main issues afflicting present day music industry. Identifying copyright of a song and defining how royalties should be split between songwriters, performers, publishers and producers is difficult in digital space. Artists lose out on royalties due to complicated copyright scene. Blockchain’s distributed ledger system, which ensures that no single entity can claim ownership, provides the perfect rightfull solution. Secure files with all relevant information such as composition, lyrics, linear notes, cover art, licensing, etc., can be encoded onto the Blockchain creating a permanent and inerasable record.
PAYMENT OF ROYALTIES
It has been observed that Blockchain technology can also be used to facilitate automatic payment of royalties through ‘smart contracts’. And the ‘smart contract’ encoded in the Blockchain enables the proceeds to directly reach the artists as well as the producers, writers and engineers. Such a system, removes the need for intermediaries and provides a transparent ecosystem that ensures all stakeholders receive their fair share of royalties.
Digitisation of the music and media industry has also left artists and producers to deal with the rampant problem of piracy, with users finding innovative ways to copy, record and distribute content, without compensating the copyright holders. The immutable security that Blockchain technology provides can be utilised to prevent it. By encode tracks on the Blockchain, which ensures that a unique record is created every time a song is played preventing copying of the content.
The music industry, disrupted by digitisation, is currently in a grappling due to age-old structures that are unable to cope with the present day digital demands. With this Blockchain technology offers solutions to build a healthy and robust ecosystem that can benefit both artists and producers. While there is still a lot to be explored on how Blockchain can revolutionise the music and media industry, it is clear that Blockchain technology is something that the industry is in dire need of.
Blockchain is increasing transparency in digital transactions, removing complexity from the ecosystem by reducing the need for multiple stakeholders in advertising purchases and digital content management. With an immutable, shared ledger that records transactions as they occur, companies in media, advertising, entertainment, and others can have complete visibility as content or data is purchased and used.
Blockchain to Transform Digital Advertising
Blockchain presents an opportunity to increase transparency in the digital advertising ecosystem by introducing smart contracts among advertisers and intermediaries.
How does the system work?
First, the advertiser, intermediaries and publishers form a blockchain consortium network. Thereafter, directly connected consortium members can create smart contracts among each other.
1) Eliminates online ad fraud
Each transaction connected to the advertiser’s digital asset will be verified at each of the nodes through smart contracts. The relevant transaction is stored on the blockchain and replicated on all the nodes – only if members form a consensus on the validity of the transaction across all the nodes.
The validated block of transactions is then added to the blockchain in a linear, chronological order, and in a cryptographically protected block. New blocks of validated transactions are connected to older blocks, making a chain of blocks that show every transaction in that blockchain’s history.
The entire chain is regularly synchronized in order that each ledger in the network is the same, giving each member the ability to prove who owns what type of transaction, at any given time.
Using machine learning algorithms for advanced detection mechanisms such as detection by signature patterns, DNS traffic monitoring, or behavioural analysis, patterns of fraudulent transactions can be detected on a blockchain. Each digital asset is allocated an identification tag and advertisers can audit and proactively search each transaction by intermediaries, to avoid fraud.
2) Establishes a direct link between advertiser and ad publisher
In the current digital advertising setup, intermediaries acquire relevance due to better marketing reach, market intelligence of publishers’ network, and channelizing capabilities. However, the transparency provided by intermediaries is limited to their version of truth.
Blockchain provides unprecedented levels of transparency as well as direct visibility into the marketing reach of ad exchanges and publishers. This presents an opportunity to optimize the number of intermediaries and evaluate ways to establish direct partnerships between advertisers and publishers.
By having the right set of platform capabilities based on blockchain and artificial intelligence, publishers can evaluate the possibility of establishing a direct link with advertisers. This leads to asimplified digital advertising ecosystem, newer revenue and operating models, and cost savings for both the parties, while providing advertisers faster feedback for course corrections.
3) Enhancing Transparency in the Digital Advertising Ecosystem
Ad exchanges that provide a programmatic interface for online bidding of advertising content between demand and supply side platforms can popularize the use of blockchain. Blockchain helpsto act as change agents to create a transparent digital advertising ecosystem.
Blockchain enabled solution helps advertisers to take benefit from a new way of discovering and purchasing inventory and the ability to secure premium inventory in advance as a result of the higher transparency and forecasting capabilities enabled by blockchain.
Blockchain can transform the digital advertising industry by infusing trust, security, and transparency into the entire value chain, to eliminate the inefficiencies in the current digital advertising model and drive higher value for publishers and advertisers. Even if governments or other global bodies are slow to regulate the digital advertising industry, blockchain can bring clarity with regard to regulations by enabling smart self regulation in the ecosystem.
Blockchain is everywhere, literally. But not many people have a clear understanding of this simple, transformational technology. I say “simple” because if you understand its architecture and functionality, you will be marveled by how brilliant it is and in how many ways it can be exploited. Of course, there are complexities involved but they are at a micro-level. So, if you are looking for a jargon-free, not-so-technical explanation of the blockchain concept, this post is for you.
Another thing before you dive deep, blockchain finds many other applications apart from Bitcoin. In fact, Bitcoin is just one of the 700 applications that work on the blockchain principle. But since cryptocurrencies seem to be the flavor of the season, I will mainly talk about blockchain technology in the context of digital payments.
Why Blockchain Technology?
Historically, monetary transactions have relied heavily on intermediaries or middlemen for authenticating the transactions and maintaining records. They acted as a regulatory body to prevent frauds.
Digital assets are more vulnerable since they are easy to compromise and duplicate. They are generally files that can be duplicated if their source code is accessed. Therefore, permission had to be sought from banks in case of money) or intermediaries (for stocks, etc.) for completing a digital transaction. This process could take time but was important to prevent the problem of double-spending (spending the same asset more than once).
So, in 2008, someone called Satoshi Nakamoto released a whitepaper in which he detailed a revolutionary technology by which digital transactions could be verified, authenticated, recorded and completed, without any intermediary! In fact, all the checking and record-keeping was to be done by people themselves. But not everybody is equipped with special verification powers. This can be achieved by specialized people who can solve complex puzzles (miners) by a process called mining. The good news is that miners are normal people like you and me (peer to peer), not banks or middlemen. They use the processing power of super-powerful computers and software to solve big puzzles (like Sudoku, only tougher). Each puzzle has a definite answer and follows a complex algorithm. The puzzle gets harder as the network gets bigger. All miners in a network have to follow the network’s protocol strictly and they are rewarded for their services by Bitcoins. Once a transaction is verified and attached to the network, it is irreversible. Reversing, modifying or deleting a transaction would require manipulation of all previous transactions (remember, it’s a chain). This is practically impossible and thus blockchains are thought secure.
Blockchains have eliminated the need for a bank by fulfilling three of its roles- storing value, verifying identities and keeping transactions records. Hence, blockchains intrigue people more than other digital payment methods like PayTM that require tie up and verification from banks.
A network of value
Blockchain can be interpreted linguistically as a chain of blocks. A block being a bundle of transactions and the chain made up of many interconnected blocks. Miners compete with each other to verify all new transactions by solving complex puzzles. The miner who gets to the result first, attaches his solution (proof of work) and is awarded with a fraction of Bitcoins that are generated now. The other miners double-check his solution and if a majority is in agreement, the transaction completes (Consensus).
Verified transactions are bundled up with their proof of work and made into a block. The new block is time stamped and attached to the existing blockchain, in a chronological order. Now, everybody in the network knows that payment has taken place and it becomes impossible to spend the same currency twice.
Since every block contains an encrypted link to a previous block, all transactions can be back-verified till we reach the origin of the first transaction. So, data that once enters a blockchain becomes immortal, a property it shares with internet!
Some people describe blockchain as the internet of value, and it seems fitting. In the internet, anyone can upload information and others can view it. A blockchain allows anyone to send Bitcoins (encrypted currency) anywhere but only the person who knows its unique address (private key) can access them. So, to transfer your Bitcoins you have to share your coins’ unique address with the recipient.
A distributed ledger
Blockchains not only have an auto-verification system, record-keeping is also automated. A copy of the entire blockchain is available to everybody on the system. Since blocks contain encrypted records representing receipt or payments of money (Bitcoins, in this case), blockchain is a type of virtual ledger. There is no central server that holds the record database or that gives permission to access the database. It is distributed and decentralized. As explained before, there is no need for an intermediary.
Blockchains can be private
Another revelation- blockchains can be private. I know, this essentially kills our favorite feature of blockchains- decentralization. But hold on; there’s more to this. Bitcoin blockchains are public, meaning anybody who has a computer and an internet connection and follows the rules of the blockchain, can join. Then he is given a copy of the entire database. A new transaction cannot be added to the ledger till all its associated previous transactions are verified. Once everything is found in order, the new entry is written and the entire database is synced and replicated to reflect new addition. As you can note, their process has built-in redundancy. This also makes the blockchain concept a bit sluggish.
Enter… private blockchains. They have rules governing who can access the network. They are mostly initiated by enterprises for their private use; something like an intranet. Private blockchains can be accessed by anyone who has been granted permission (invitation) by the starter of the network or who matches the protocol set by the starter. Since the number of participants in private blockchains is less, processing speeds are much faster and processing costs are lower than of public blockchains.
Aside from the access rights, public and private blockchains share similar features:
Both are decentralized. A copy of the entire blockchain is available with each and every participant.
Both have an access protocol (consensus).
Both are immutable and irreversible.
Public or private, the blockchain concept is intriguing. They have made digitization of assets possible and transfer of assets faster. Their encrypted, peer to peer mechanism has phased out the need for regulatory bodies and administrators. And while the blockchain concept purists might protest that private blockchains aren’t exactly permission-free, we say- better a devil known than a devil unknown!
Blockchains are made to go beyond Bitcoins
Although blockchain’s application in digital currencies and asset transfers is most widely documented and exploited, blockchains go way beyond finance. Blocks can store any kind of encrypted information. Bitcoins are also lines of code that hold a unique address.
Apart from handling currency, the blockchain concept can be made to execute some actions (in the real and physical world) if they work in tandem with other technologies. Actions can be to fetch external data such as medical records, census information, intellectual property, weather reports, inventory details, etc. But here comes a problem. Not all participants in a blockchain trust each other. So, how can they filter who can access their data? This can be done using smart contracts. A smart contract contains sets of conditions that must be met by a user, for him or her to gain trust and enter a blockchain. Once a user meets all criteria, blockchain programs trigger and perform some action.
Consider an example. You must have heard of smart devices. They are regular appliances fitted with sensors and connected to the Cloud. These devices are programmed to operate in a predefined manner if certain conditions are met. For example, a smart glucometer keeps monitoring the user’s glucose level and triggers an alarm when levels rise beyond a certain defined limit. They might also send a message to the user’s physician if a low or high sugar situation arises. Now, add blockchain to this equation.
Suppose the physician stores all patient records in a blockchain and shares its private key with his patients. He will be controlling access to confidential records. Apart from securing his patients’ data in encrypted form, the blockchain will be governed by smart contracts that will control who can access the data. Suppose an invalid transaction is tried, the entire blockchain is alerted and doctor, as well as patient, gets a notification. A smart contract can set a protocol that if an input is valid, access should be granted. Programmed devices will be triggered to perform any action- increase insulin dose, contact emergency room, etc. incredible, isn’t it? No need for manual intervention, no hassle, no delay! The Blockchain concept is more than a bubble. It’s an ocean of possibilities and opportunities. Take a dip and find out for yourself!