Development of blockchain is moving at a quick pace. It could, however, be quicker. In order to spur increased adoption and development of blockchain based services, a new group known as the ‘Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA)’ has been formed.
This alliance, which is being championed by Square, essentially represents a group of forward thinking companies, which have decided to share blockchain related patents openly and freely.
In basically every industry, patents play a vital role. Simply put, a patent is a right to exclusivity over a process or intellectual property (IP). Patents are important, primarily for one reason – they protect from theft.
If a visionary inventor were to spend years painstakingly developing a new process or item, but neglected to protect the IP with a patent, a company could simply come along, and use the inventor’s IP to mimic the end product. If the inventor is to be rewarded for their efforts, this IP needs protecting.
Sharing is Caring
Now that we have established what a patent is, and why they are important, is there a downside to them? Yes.
Often, companies with deep pockets will seek out ownership of patents surrounding competing technologies. In this case, the company is not protecting the IP, but rather ‘putting it on ice’ and preventing others from using it. This is a fairly common practice, with a plethora of examples by big corporations ‘patent hoarding’.
It is due to this mindset that the COPA was recently created. In the eyes of the COPA, ‘sharing is caring’. With the blockchain industry in such a nascent stage, growth and development can easily be stymied by patent hoarding. If the industry is to meet the lofty expectations of many, it will require the sharing of knowledge.
The concept of patent sharing is not a new one. While most companies are solely focused on each’s own success, there have been many examples over the years proving otherwise. In these cases, motivation may range from doing what is right for the public, to developing an industry. In the latter case, the mindset is that it is often better to be a small fish in a big pond, rather than a big fish in a small pond.
One of the most well-known examples of patent sharing came 57 years ago, from Volvo. After developing the three-point seatbelt, which is used in just about every modern car around the world, Volvo opted to share its patent.
While the company could have simply kept it to themselves, or licenced it out to rivals, Volvo opted not to. This was done, as the company viewed the IP behind the three-point seat belt as more than a money-maker. Rather, it felt a responsibility to the public at large to share its life-saving device. To date, literally millions of lives have been saved by the decision to selflessly share this IP.
Volvo is also a noteworthy adopter of blockchain, as the company has recently announced its intent to use the technology as a means of monitoring Cobalt supply chains. This is an increasingly important issue, as advent of electric vehicles has put Cobalt in high demand. Unfortunately, much of the world’s Cobalt is mined in unethical conditions – something Volvo is looking to put a stop to.
In the past few years, there are various examples of patent hoarding occurring within blockchain. The following are a few companies often associated with the practice.
It should be noted that the process of ‘hoarding’ patents does not necessarily imply bad acting. In many situations, it simply means that the company being awarded a patent is a true innovator, constantly developing new technologies.
Ideas like the COPA may be appealing on paper, but run the risk of suffering from adoption. To give something away for free requires a forward thinking mind. Often, such alliances rely upon a snowball effect as people will only join once others take the leap first.
This should not be an issue with the COPA. As previously alluded to, payment processing giant, Square, has announced its participation. Jack Dorsey is one of the most well-known, pro-bitcoin figures around the world. As the CEO of Square, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that COPA was found appealing.
Blockchain and Patents
With blockchain becoming one of the hottest technologies over the past few years, companies have been scrambling to create patents surrounding its use. One company has taken a different approach, though.
Rather than focusing on being awarded blockchain patents, IPWe have decided to develop a blockchain based patent aggregation platform; The goal of which is to bring new efficiencies to the patent industry, which is largely segregated and piece-meal on a global scale.
In Other News
For those interested in learning more about what a blockchain based patent may look like, make sure to check out our past coverage HERE. In this example, we take a look at a recently awarded patent – surrounding digital securities – to none other than Square.