Blockchain and its role in intellectual property – Commentary

Introduction
Blockchain and intellectual property
IP transfers
Copyright
Patents
Comment

Introduction

“Blockchain” is a system or database in which the authors can present tests through a digital publication, generating a rapid systematisation of the documents presented. Blockchain is characterised by two elements – namely:

  • immutability; and
  • transparency.

These two characteristics provide security to users of the database, giving them confidence that their information will not be hacked.

Blockchain and intellectual property

When blockchain merges with intellectual property, this results in databases that aim to protect authorship in a safe and easy way, while also seeking to offer their users different ways in which they can share IP-related information. For instance, they will have the possibility of uploading confidential documents. One such database, IPCHAIN, is characterised by its closeness with IP offices, and has collaborated with associations such as:

  • World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Green (a WIPO association that promotes the innovation and diffusion of technologies);
  • the Dennemeyer Group (the world’s largest IP law firm); and
  • the Marie Curie Alumni Association (which represents the interests of more than 10,000 European researchers).

IP transfers

It is the security offered by such platforms that make them attractive in the context of intellectual property, especially for delicate operations such as transfers or contractual agreements. An example of this would be a licence agreement; in practice, it can be difficult to detect breaches of such agreements. However, the existence of a blockchain system will allow that, if a contract is registered and a breach of the stipulated terms is detected, the contract will automatically be eliminated.

Copyright

Blockchain systems can also play an important role in regard to the demonstration of creation in the case of copyright. This demonstration is what prevents creations being copied by third parties. Users can upload different types of work (eg, musical, visual or audiovisual works) to such systems and store them via blockchain. This generates an IP record, which enables the creator to demonstrate the date on which the work was created.

Another way in which blockchain can be useful in copyright protection is in the calculation of gains that a composer can obtain via their musical creation. This calculation can be complicated in light of the fact that it would be difficult to keep a record of every time a particular song is heard.

An example of such use is exemplified by the musical database Mycelia, through which users can pay for and consume different types of music. This database was created by singer Imogen Heap, who revealed her motivation for creating it in an interview:

One of the norms should demand that all services return information to the spores. Specifically, data on where, when and how people interact with our music and who does it. This information is gold powder for artists, because if we know how to interpret it, we can get to know our audience better and create opportunities to promote our work more effectively and obtain an economic reward for our work.

In accordance with another norm, we would use “smart contracts” that define the legal agreements related to the creation and use of a work in all kinds of contexts – weddings, advertising campaigns, etc. Under these contracts, artists could be informed that a transaction has occurred and all those who have participated in the creation would receive the payment of the corresponding royalties each time the work is used.

Patents

Blockchain systems also seek to be useful in the world of patents, and there have been debates regarding the role of this system in this regard. It has been proposed(1) that blockchain could resolve issues such as:

  • the cost of patents, which causes some owners to choose to commercialise their patents without putting in place any protection;
  • differences between patent systems in different countries; and
  • so-called “patent trolls”, who acquire patents and request compensation for damages for their infringement.

Comment

Blockchain presents a series of advantages that can be beneficial in the field of intellectual property. It provides safe and stable records that are difficult to eliminate, enabling users to store updated copies of information and have control over the operations and information that are entered into the system. Blockchain systems can also prevent malicious attacks and result in fewer expenses for those who use them.

For further information on this topic please contact Evelyn Dueñas Morales at OMC Abogados & Consultores by telephone (+51 1 628 1238) or email ([email protected]). The OMC Abogados & Consultores website can be accessed at omcabogados.com.pe.

Endnotes

(1) See, for example, Philip Boucher, Unidad de Previsión Científica, “Como puede cambiar nuestra vida la tecnología de la cadena de bloques”, Servicio de Estudios del Parlamento Europeo.

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