What is Blockchain?
A Blockchain is a secure public ledger of digital financial transactions. It’s the technology that underlies bitcoin and is known for its tamper-proof ability to verify high volumes of digital transactions.
TechTarget explains how it works:
When a transaction is made, it is packaged up with other transactions into a “block” and recorded across a network of computers, a majority of which are required to confirm the transaction in order for it to be accepted as legitimate a process referred to as achieving consensus. The block is then time-stamped with a cryptographic hash. Each block also contains a reference to the previous block’s hash, creating a “chain” of records that is considered impossible to falsify.
Protecting blockchain IP
Compared to the thousands of patents issued for smartphone technology, the blockchain sector is clearly in its infancy. However, elevated levels of patenting activity in any sector tend to attract patent trolls. Take Dr. Craig Wright, for example, who claims to be the anonymous founder of Bitcoin. Wright has filed at least 50 blockchain-related patents in the UK through Antigua-registered EITC Holdings Ltd a company that appears to be a troll because it has no business model other than enforcing its patent rights.
To stop patent trolls, the Chamber of Digital Commerce launched the Blockchain Intellectual Property Council (BIPC) this year. BIPC’s goal is to develop a global, industry-led defensive patent strategy that will nip blockchain patent trolling in the bud. Its first meeting on March 30th attracted 40 participants. In the next meeting in April, that number rose to 70. The BIPC executive committee members are the “who’s who” list of blockchain stakeholders, including Chain, Digital Asset, IBM, Microsoft, CoinDesk, Blockstream, Bloq, Civic, Cognizant, Deloitte, Digital Currency Group, Ernst & Young, Gem, Medici Ventures, T0.com, TMX and Wipfli.
Aside from establishing a repository of blockchain-specific patent information, BIPC will be exploring various IP protection models that have worked in other sectors, such as:
Non-aggression agreements where industry players agree not to assert patents against each other.
Developing patent pools where cross-licensing options are available to all pool participants.
Reducing inventory where groups form (like the LOT Network) and the members agree not to sell patents without first granting a license to all group members.
Will blockchain technology be open or proprietary?
Today blockchain applications range from totally public, permission-less ledgers (like Bitcoin) to completely private, permissioned ledgers accessible only to validated users. With blockchain technology still in its initial stages, there is an ongoing debate as to which direction open standards vs. proprietary code – will best accelerate its potential economic and societal benefits.
A vision for the future
20 years ago, only a handful of visionaries understood how the Internet was about to transform our world. We predict that in 20 years blockchain-based applications will also be thoroughly intertwined in our daily lives.