Is Blockchain Still a Good Option to Protect My Business’ IP?

Have you noticed a decline in the public conversation about cryptocurrencies and blockchain in recent months? Wondering if the concept still holds any relevance to your small business? We have written before about how to use blockchain to protect your business’ IP, but in the fast-paced world of tech and cybersecurity, it seems like a good time for an update.

Although crypto-related news seems to have been on the decline, the industry is very much still on the rise. In fact, dozens of companies have applied for crypto-related trademark registration in 2019 so far. Of course, cryptocurrencies are only one of many uses for soon-to-be ubiquitous blockchain.

Remind Me, What is Blockchain?

Basically, blockchain is a technological innovation that allows transactions to be recorded and stored in a secure, decentralized database. Because it is decentralized, each transaction isn’t held in one main storage facility. Instead, each party to a transaction holds a piece (or “block”) of data that’s needed to form the full picture. By keeping a secure, decentralized record, transactions of every size, type, and description can be memorialized using blockchain. For a more in-depth look at how blockchain is used by entrepreneurs, click here.

What’s New in Blockchain IP Protection?

We’ve talked before about how copyright and trademark protect may shift as blockchain technology becomes more common, but now we are seeing evidence of this kind of IP protection in action.

One of the most exciting ways that blockchain is being used to protect IP is by tracking the use of copyrighted material through the stream of commerce. Imagine you write a blog post for your company’s website. It’s your intellectual property because you were the original author. By default, you own the copyright. We know, however, that your copyright ownership is only enforceable if you have registered that material with the U.S. Copyright Office (this legal truth was reiterated in a recent Supreme Court decision).

As an aside, it is possible that blockchain may eventually supplant the traditional system, however, because of how easy and effective it is to record proof of authorship of an original work using blockchain. Everything from a scholarly work to a photograph to a song can be instantaneously recorded with a unique author signature using blockchain technology. Until the registration requirement changes, however, this blockchain recording will only serve as supporting evidence of authorship (which is still incredibly important) but will not replace legal registration.

So, back to our example, you do register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. You get approved for copyright protection for that blog post. Ok, it’s protected. But how do you know if your material is being used without your permission? You can hire an attorney to track your intellectual property online (we highly recommend this as a way to safeguard against infringement). But, in real time, how would you know how your copyrighted material is getting around? How many “shares” did it go through? Blockchain may be the answer. Whether the IP being distributed is a blog post, an image, or software, you can reliably track your IP’s distribution. 

Trademark protection, is also benefiting from the use of blockchain technology. This ability to securely record usage comes in particularly handy for two common trademark disputes: how similar are two marks and when was a mark first used in commerce? Because blockchain allows for recordation of transactions in a secure and instantaneous manner, it is particularly useful for determining when a mark first was used. In trademark infringement litigation, for example, it is easy to prove exactly when, where, and by whom a particular trademark was used. When beginning to use a mark in commerce, simply make a public record of that trademark, along with your business name. The more information you record using blockchain technology, the more evidence you have for your ownership claim, if any conflict should arise.

Interested in Learning More about Using Blockchain to Protect Your IP?

If you are interested in learning more about blockchain, or if you are a business owner who shares content online, let’s talk. Click here to get on my calendar, and we can talk 21st century IP protection.