Insights | How can blockchain technology influence IP Law?

Insights | How can blockchain technology influence IP Law?


“The potential for blockchain technologies in developing trustworthy, efficient and cheap registries is huge!” says Justin Spratt, Uber’s Head of Business for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Spratt used the examples of Everledger, which uses the blockchain to protect luxury goods (primarily diamonds) and CoinSpark which acts a blockchain for notarial services.

The Economist describes the blockchain as:

“The blockchain is a shared, trusted, public ledger that everyone can inspect, but which no single user controls. The participants in a blockchain system collectively keep the ledger up to date: it can be amended only according to strict rules and by general agreement.”

If you look at this definition of the blockchain it has the following qualities:

  • shared, trusted public ledger;
  • everyone can inspect;
  • no single user control;
  • a collective commitment to keeping the ledger up to date;
  • amended only according to strict rules and general agreement; and
  • keeps track of all transactions.

We can all agree that those are all fundamental requirements for IP Registries internationally.

The potential for new blockchains need not work exactly how Bitcoin works and as a result has the potential to make cheap, tamper-proof public databases. How could this work? According to the Economist:

“A group of vetted participants within an industry might instead agree to join a private blockchain, say, that needs less security. Blockchains can also implement business rules, such as transactions that take place only if two or more parties endorse them, or if another transaction has been completed first.”

IP Registries worldwide largely depend on the maintenance and integrity of its databases. However, the cost of maintaining these databases, the efficiency of how they are run and the integrity of these databases require solutions.

The IP Law fraternity has thousands of “vetted participants” which are linked to industry bodies and the requirements for IP rights are underpinned by sophisticated legal principles. These participants all have the requisite skills and interest in developing and maintaining IP registries.

Spratt is firm of the view that for any public registry, blockchain technology is the future; “There is absolutely no reason why this technology won’t become standard across the world in the next five years.”

JUSTIN SPRATT is the keynote speaker for the upcoming IPCrammer on 27 October 2016 at the Maslow in Sandton. The IP Crammer is just that – a ‘crammer’ session that highlights the year’s most significant IP cases and issues from around Africa. Registration is FREE. Click here to book your space now.