2 min video looking at different ways Blockchain technology is being used to help protect IP.
According to a study carried out in 2019 by the European Union Intellectual Property Office
(EUIPO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD), Intellectual Property (IP) infringement may account for up to 6.8% of EU imports, or €121 billion of fake goods per annum. Recently, the US Supreme Court refused a re-trial of a long-running legal case where it was claimed that damages could amount to over $58 million regarding the IP one of the most famous songs in the world, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Potentially, the case could have been resolved a lot faster had the song been registered on a database when first written.
Transporting us out of the 1970s to the present day, TikTok, the Chinese social network which has 600+ million users (many of which make $millions of dollars a year in advertising, sponsorship and merchandise revenue) has not taken any steps to protect the IP on its images posted onto the site. So it ought to be of no surprise for Jack Ma, the canny Chinese business magnate, that his Ant Group is using Blockchain technology to keep a time-stamped register of copyright material — such as from music, videos, images and written documents (articles and essays). Ant Group states that, at present, more than 10 million original works are certified every day on the platform. Rather ironic though, that to promote the AntChain register it uses a track from Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music! Ant Group has much experience with patents as both itself and its former parent company, Alibaba, own over 1,500 Blockchain patents with 1 billion clients and having transacted $17+trillion. This is 25 times the amount of payments PayPal has processed to date in 2020 and more than any other company globally. PayPal is valued at $231billion, with Ant Group potentially being valued at $300+billion, surely one of them has to be mis-priced?
In the USA the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act” proposes the creation of in effect a small claims court for copyright infringement. This would enable creators of IP content to be able to represent themselves; damages would be capped at $15,000 for each infringed work and top out at $30,000 total. This is offers big opportunity for California based company called FileProtected because using its Blockchain-powered platform one can register their IP and then use the time stamped record and represent themselves providing immutable evidence into a court.
The challenge is that current copyright framework would seem not fit for purpose in an increasingly digital economy that we find ourselves in. There are 95+ million images, and videos shared just on Instagram every day! Copyright law never saw social media sharing sites like Instagram coming and the laws rely on an analogue based solution trying to solve an ever-increasing digital problem. Its incompatibilities with a digital economy no longer provide a satisfactory solution. It’s too slow, cost-prohibitive, complex to navigate and dependant on attorneys.
Another firm that is based in the USA using of Blockchain technology to register ideas and IP is Mytitle. It offers a service for IP creators to buy digital certificate for $3.Meanwhile in Australia, Ucrowdme has a platform using Blockchain technology to facilitate individuals and companies in time stamping and registering ideas which can be bought and sold globally — ideal for the millions of SMEs who currently do not register and often are unable to monetise their ideas and inventions so missing out on being the next Amazon or Alibaba.
A solution for the registration of IP is offered by The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) which also provides a time-stamped database and issues tokens to those who register their IP, and is already being used in 117 countries. Interestingly though, it does not actually use Blockchain technology since it believes that for Blockchain technology to be used effectively to manage IP rights, there needs to be a set of globally agreed standards.
As with all technology the Blockchain-powered platforms are vulnerable to ‘garbage in, garbage out’, i.e. there is little point relying on a database which cannot be altered if the original data entered is incorrect. Blockchains which integrate with other technologies, that do not reply on human intervention e.g. IoT enable data to be captured from verifiable sources. Nevertheless, we are undoubtedly seeing some jurisdictions using Blockchain-powered platforms, such as Ant’s, being used to settle IP infringement claims.