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Author: Prayank Khandelwal, Amit Koshal, Shishya Goyal

When you walk in a room and see lots of bundles of green files on the floors, in cupboards and lots of people working on those green files- you have entered a law office. In the past 2-3 years, there has been an explosion of new technologies in the society and a new survival of fittest race has begun. These technologies drive the way we live and conduct business. One such technology explosion was the emergence of blockchain. The article shall proceed to first consider what blockchain is, the significance of its connection with IPR and the way ahead. 

Blockchain is in the most basic sense means the storage of digital information in public or private databases. It is commonly known as a decentralized database. These databases are connected on peer to peer computer basis and while the information is available to all, it is tamperproof as it is difficult to tamper the evidence without getting noticed. Each of these blocks has its code called hash to give them identity.  Each new block in the chain is created with a copy of the previous block attached meaning that a record is included in the next version of blockchain.

This technology has been used in various domains from cryptocurrency, transaction and contractual information to data files, videos, and design documents. The main focal point of this article is that this technology has not left the legal profession untouched. IPR lawyers, in particular, tend to drive the most of this technology globally primarily for two reasons:-

  • Blockchain keeps tab of all their clients’ documents and events and therefore there is a limitation of futile claims which arise due to the loss of documents or to prove the authenticity of documents.
  • Being a tech-savvy law firm enables to work more on client satisfaction and prioritize the work.

IPR and Blockchain can work together as a double-edged sword. The IP system protects the blockchain whereas the blockchain can be used to strengthen the IP regime. In the former case, the IP system plays a very important role to protect technologies using blockchain as a base. An example of Laxmi coins- India’s first cryptocurrency could be taken into consideration where they use the mark ® beside the word Laxmi coin[1]. This is how IPR protects blockchain technology.

Blockchain could have a significant role to play in the IP industry and has even been predicted to be more efficient than it has proved to be in the financial sector[2]. The technology has the potential to help the idea generators and those that work with them to get revenue from innovation. Let’s consider an ELI5 approach to this. Before the advent of the internet, the idea of spreading your business idea was to start from the place where you stay and then earn enough goodwill and finance to establish your idea at the international level. After the advent of the internet, it has become easy for all ideas to exist in a space that is just not in your head. The businesses have to manage their brand authenticity globally which only increases their difficulties. In this scenario, a blockchain is an ideal tool.

Beyond the crystal, the ball gaze shows the linkage of blockchain and IPR and a bright future of such collaboration. The following outcomes can be expected:-

  • Trademark registry: – It is pertinent to note that various registries are monitoring the work of IPR dispersed around the world. These registries maintain these documents in physical or electronic form. The documents are there with the registry in silos and the great possibility of the same being not in sync. Here the blockchain technology comes to the rescue which can maintain a uniform record throughout thereby saving time and cost.
  • Ownership and licensing: – Managing IP in a globalized economy is a daunting task. Primarily the proprietor needs to seek where to apply for this and in case of multiple ideas, he is loaded with a mountain of paperwork which further increases his complexities. It, therefore, becomes very difficult for companies to provide speedy protection to their ideas thereby in many cases inviting the lengthy legal battles. Licensing is used by the companies to benefit commercially from their creation. Traditionally, after signing the licensing agreement the companies generally do not update their innovation status and thus creating problems even for the bona fide licensing agreement. Blockchain here acts as a blessing in disguise. The companies can update their idea and their usage in a blockchain which can be used to claim prior users and hence beneficial for the companies to exert their rights and prevent unnecessary confusion as regards the status to the licensing agreements giving an unconventional approach to the traditional obsolete agreement.
  • Smart contracts: – The age of globalization has opened the doors of the world economies. The companies of all over the world interact with each other and millions of contracts are entered daily. In these circumstances, it is nearly impossible to have a face to face contact with the parties and therefore parties hire intermediaries to settle these contracts in case of a breach. This involves paying a substantial amount of fees to these intermediaries thereby increasing cost and third party intervention. Blockchain acts as a catalyst to the concept of smart contracts. Smart contracts are self-enforcing agreements embedded in computer code managed by blockchain. This code contains a set of rules in which the parties agree to interact with each other. When these rules are met the contract is automatically enforced.
  • Benefit to SMEs: – Small and Medium-sized enterprises may have limited operations but contribute significantly towards the growth of countries’ economies. Even when these SMEs have limited funds their funds are often spiraled towards unfruitful activities to protect their ideas. For instance, in the case of patents they have to conduct multiple internal and external searches and it involves considerable time and money and as mentioned above may thrust them into unnecessary litigation. Blockchain provides a consolidated platform for the internal and external search for patents.

Therefore, this is one aspect that requires the creative application of this technology because the IPR domain has plenty to gain from the block technology sector. Both these domains have been loggerheads till now but now this association holds a bright future in the forthcoming crypto world.

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