Blockchain Holds the Key to Strong IP Protection in the Future

April 26, 2019

With the goal of celebrating the creativity and contributions made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe, as well as raising awareness of how patents, copyright, trademarks and designs impact on daily life, World Intellectual Property Day, of which we are observing today, was established by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

It is important for both individuals and businesses to have a good understanding of international IP and the issues and laws that surround them so that they can protect their IP assets more effectively. International intellectual property issues are not uncommon. This is especially true when you consider that different people, organizations and countries have varying interpretations of the guidelines that regulate them. This leads to disputes, lawsuits, reputation damage and much more.

According to expert research, IP infringement costs the average company almost 102 million US in revenue per year and this is expected to increase going forward. This is compounded with the fact that for IP owners the systems for enforcing their rights online are badly outdated. Fortunately, blockchain technology might be able to provide some answers to this issue.

First of all, blockchain can assist in proving ownership rights. This is because blockchain ledgers create time-stamped records that cannot be retroactively changed, which allows them to be the ideal solution for proving when a certain piece of work was first created. A system such as this will eliminate doubts about who created the IP, making it easier for creators to enforce their rights when instances of infringement occur.

Likewise, blockchain ledgers can track subsequent instances of the use of intellectual property. This aspect of blockchain in the IP space is of critical importance since it could solve the problem of easy and cheap replication of digital content, which is a significant concern in this day and age. Research has shown that just in 2015, it was estimated that US 9 billion in unlicensed software was installed on computers in the United States.

Following this thought, blockchain can also streamline the process of registering for formal IP rights, as in the case of patents. A decentralized registration system could allow for fast and accurate verification of a person or organization’s right to a given piece of IP. With this in mind, excessive wait time for patents and trademarks could be shortened and businesses would find themselves more able to innovate quickly.

Lastly, there is also the matter of smart contracts playing a role in enforcing licensing agreements. Smart contracts allow creators to set their own licensing terms and ensure that they are being carried out. On top of this, they can be used to license content directly to end-users, thus eliminating the middleman and creating fewer opportunities for infringement.

Currently, there are already several companies around the world that are utilizing blockchain as a means of helping other businesses in enforcing their IP. Below are just two of the most interesting ones.

Bernstein Technologies is a Munich-based company that provides IP management solutions. It provides a notarization platform that allows individuals, companies, and institutions to create a trail of records of the whole innovation process on the blockchain, link subsequent updates and proofs of use, and disclose them on a public database, and receive a certificate that can prove existence, integrity, and ownership.

In the same vein but geared towards image creators, Binded lets artists claim their copyrights on the blockchain and protects them. Essentially what the platform does is allows users to upload their art or photos onto itself and then create a timestamp in the blockchain and give a certificate as proof.

Looking at the above, one can see that while blockchain will be very useful in protecting one’s IP, individuals and companies also need to be proactive in registering their work, and enlightening themselves towards what kind of resources are available to safeguard them.

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