Blockchain & Ownership of Intellectual Property

The bitcoin blockchain is well recognized for its use as a ledger for the digital currency transactions, however it also possesses potential for others, more radical uses also; uses that are just now starting to be explored. The online service “Proof of Existence” is one of the examples of how the capabilities of this novel technology can go beyond the world of banking and finance[1], in this case, providing a glimpse of how bitcoin can have a great impacts in the sectors of law and intellectual property one day. Though in its primary phases, Proof of Existence can be applied to show document ownership without exposing the information it entails, and to give proof that the document was written at a specific time.

The inventor of Proof of Existence as a decentralized verification method, Manuel Araoz stated that as the blockchain is the public database, it is distributed kind of consensus, and your documents are certified in a distributed kind of way. While the capabilities of the blockchain giving major evidence in legal conflicts might seem far-fetched today, such a jump in thinking is similar to the work being carried out by the developers of digital currency projects across the globe. As the projects such as BitID and OneName are proving, digital, decentralized verification is the idea that a lot of proponents of distributed systems observe as a natural, if as-yet-untapped, application of technology[2].
As we have entered the second generation of an internet that emphasizes on value and information as well, blockchains can reduce transaction cost to a substantial level. For instance, a global searchable database of all the transactions would greatly lower the searching costs. Smart contracts, the software programs that self-execute complex instructions) on the blockchain will plummet the costs of contracting, contracts enforcement and payments[3]. Autonomous agents (sets of smart contracts act like rich applications) on the blockchain have the promise to eliminate the agency and co-ordination costs, and can even come up with highly distributed enterprises with no or little arrangements.

Most of the leading lights of the industry met at the “Smart Contracts for Smart Cities” conference, held in Hong Kong in 2015, to share their opinions regarding the future of blockchain technology for intellectual property specifically. These are the people who kept looking to solve the problems surrounding the digital content and IP on the internet. A basic challenge of the internet is that people are probably not going to be paid, or getting only a fraction of its value. Ads are terrible solution to monetization, as agreed in the conference.

Blockchain and timestamping service are also valuable to use in creating auditable trial of the content ownership from the creation through to the rights transference and beyond. The democratization of the process can also address certain imbalances in the patient system[4]. At present, the patent system in the software sector is quite broken, it enables a lot of things to happen that shouldn’t be permitted as patents and excludes other things that should be. It is quite a challenging situation when you have such massive enterprises amassing these massive portfolios and just they get to wield patents.

Take into account a music industry, as an example, where intermediaries grab almost all the value and artists are pad at the end. Now, businesses such as Mycelia, established by Grammy-winner Imogen Heap, are there that have developed songs using smart contracts built in, enabling artists to sell directly in the market with no need to go through any technology company, label or financial intermediary[5]. This implies that licensing and royalties agreements can be executed instantly and automatically, and artists get paid first. Companies like Apple, Sony, and Samsung etc. are thinking to embrace the technology and unveil its hidden potential for the protection of patents of the intellectual property.

[1] http://www.coindesk.com/how-block-chain-technology-is-working-to-transform-intellectual-property/
[2] http://www.coindesk.com/authentication-protocol-bitid-lets-users-connect-bitcoin/
[3] https://hbr.org/2016/05/the-impact-of-the-blockchain-goes-beyond-financial-services
[4] http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21677198-technology-behind-bitcoin-could-transform-how-economy-works-trust-machine
[5] http://qz.com/620454/imogen-heap-wants-to-use-blockchain-technology-to-revolutionize-the-music-industry/