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Article: What Opportunities Could Blockchain Create for Intellectual Property (IP)?

This Coindesk piece is worth a quick scan.


There have been many early applications of blockchain technology in fin-tech, but how can blockchain improve the protection of intellectual property (IP)? It’s clear that distributed ledger technologies can be implemented in lots of use cases. Here some examples.

IP Registration System

How long does it take to file a patent? It depends on where an individual or business is filing. Let’s look at the US as an example. Looking at data from FY 2016, the USPTO typically took around 16.2 months from filing to initial office action. Average total pendencies took around 25.3 months. Also, patents for specific categories like computer architecture can take much longer than the overall average.

The problem is that a lot of IP filings must undergo manual review. In industries where it’s important to become first-movers, it can be difficult to get the approval of patent agencies or other regulatory authorities. By replacing centralized registration systems with decentralized ones, it will be easier to not only register new IP but also update filings and transfer ownership at any time. With blockchain, regulatory agencies will be able to achieve more with fewer required resources. By reducing approval wait times, companies can move forward with innovations that are protected by IP law.

Determining Creatorship

Another major problem with IP ownership is telling which entity first created the IP. Due to the lengthy approval process and the multitude of national IP regulations, there isn’t a clear way of defining who owns IP. For instance, a singer might release a song that sounds similar to an existing song. Regardless of whether the song was intended to be similar or not, such cases that have occurred in the past resulted in several large-scale IP infringement lawsuits, which usually only settle many years after the songs were released.  The “Blurred Lines” lawsuit is one recent example of this.

With a blockchain-based registration system, it will be much simpler to verify whether a new song is or isn’t infringing upon the existing IP of a previously-registered song. This type of blockchain-based  detection system can be thought of something as a legally-backed Copyscape, only the technology can be applied to other things like art and music with the help of artificial intelligence.

Curbing Counterfeits

Unfortunately, in a lot of instances, companies outright steal the existing IP of their competitors to produce food, clothing, and other goods. In the current era, it’s still relatively easy for some companies to get away with such practices and earn millions or even billions of dollars in profit in the process. For physical products, at least, blockchain integration via RFID tags is something that is already being implemented. This technology allow regulatory authorities to easily tell when things like imported goods are counterfeit simply by scanning a product’s barcode.

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