This article on ‘Blockchain Technology and Intellectual Property Rights‘ was written by Ashok Kumar Choudhary, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
Blockchain technology offers a new way to safeguard your hard-earned work, research, and theories, for which you have invested your time, energy, and money. It enables individuals to have tamper-proof evidence of copyright ownership. In the past decade, blockchain and ledger technology have been utilized in every sector. It has even changed the paradigm for various companies prioritising protecting their essential data. Many companies today are investing significant amounts of money to take advantage of the benefits of blockchain technology. This article analyses the concept of Blockchain along with its nexus with various Intellectual property rights.
WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN?
When you create something using your brain, technology, and hard work, such as art, music, or writing, the unique idea that you come up with is entirely yours. You have invested your time and effort into creating that piece, and now, if someone makes a copy with a few changes and claims it as their own, it can be disheartening. In the past, the only option to resolve such disputes was arbitration, which was often a lengthy and time-consuming process. However, with the emergence of blockchain technology, a decentralized ledger uses digital records, which means that no central authority owns the system. This structure provides a transparent and immutable record, which can help resolve disputes more efficiently.
BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
Blockchain functions as a decentralized ledger that records transactions in real-time, securing them through consensus among its participants to prevent any manipulation or data errors. This technology offers a unified platform for transactions among various nodes in the blockchain, promoting transparency between customers and regulators across multiple industries, and reducing costs associated with transactions.
PROTECTING INTELLECTUAL PROTECTING THROUGH BLOCKCHAIN
Blockchain technology can protect intellectual property in several ways:
- Digital Identity: Digital identity is an essential way in which blockchain technology can protect intellectual property. Creators and owners of intellectual property can use blockchain-based digital identity solutions to establish and verify their identities in a secure and decentralized manner, preventing identity fraud and ensuring that only authorized parties can access and use protected content. For example, let’s say Amit wrote a research paper and wants to prove ownership. He could use a blockchain-based digital identity solution to verify his identity and attach a digital signature to the research paper. The signature will be recorded on the blockchain, resulting in a secure and irreversible record of ownership. If anyone else tries to claim ownership of the research paper, Amit can use his digital identity and the blockchain record to prove his ownership and protect his intellectual property rights.
- Immutable record: Immutable record is one of the important ways in which blockchain technology can protect intellectual property. The tamper-proof and transparent nature of blockchain transactions means that once a transaction is recorded, it cannot be modified, changed or deleted without detection. This provides a strong basis for verifying the ownership and authenticity of intellectual property rights, preventing fraudulent claims of ownership or unauthorized use of protected content. For example, a filmmaker or OTT platform content creator can use blockchain technology to register their web series, movies, or video content and create a secure and immutable record of ownership. If anyone tries to use or distribute the films without permission, the original creator can use their blockchain record to prove ownership and take legal action if necessary.
- Smart contracts: A revolutionary application of blockchain technology, enable the creation of tamper-proof and self-executing agreements between parties without intermediaries. By automating the execution of contract terms using lines of code, smart contracts offer a high degree of transparency, efficiency, and trust, and have the potential to transform industries ranging from finance to real estate to supply chain management. With the ability to encode complex business logic and automate contract execution, smart contracts have the power to streamline processes, reduce costs, and increase security, making them genuinely innovative and game-changing technology. These contracts can be used to establish and enforce ownership and licensing agreements for intellectual property in a secure and automated manner. A software development company, for example, can use a smart contract to create a licensing deal for its software. The terms and conditions of the agreement can be written into the smart contract code, and the contract can be executed automatically when certain conditions are met. This can help ensure that the developer is properly compensated for using their software and can help prevent unauthorized use or distribution.
- Decentralized storage: Using decentralized storage is another important way blockchain technology can protect intellectual property. Decentralized storage systems store data on a network of nodes rather than a centralized server, which might be prone to hacking, data breaches, and other security issues. By using blockchain-based decentralized storage systems, creators and owners of intellectual property can store their content in a secure and tamper-proof manner. This can protect the creator’s intellectual property rights by ensuring that their work is secure and protected from unauthorized use and infringement. For example, a writer can use a blockchain-based decentralized storage system to store their manuscripts. The data will be spread to various network nodes, making it nearly hard for an unauthorized person to access or modify it.
UNIFYING PATENT OFFICE
The decentralized ledger technology offered by blockchain would address the challenge of unifying the patent system across countries, which would significantly improve the effectiveness of intellectual property management, foster innovation, and promote the seamless distribution of information through the ledger.
Blockchain technology can provide a simple solution to the global intellectual property issue by unifying the patent system, thereby enhancing intellectual property management and accelerating innovation for companies. In India, the Indian Evidence Act 1872, section 65B, recognizes blockchain-based transactions as valid and admissible evidence in court, enabling the use of blockchain for enforcement and jurisdiction.
BLOCKCHAIN AS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
When combined with artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain technology is transforming the intellectual property ecosystem. Both government and private sector organizations are utilizing this technology to identify lucrative opportunities and potential commercial risks more efficiently and at a lower cost by summarizing all available patents in any area of interest.
Although intellectual property rights are not registered immediately at the time of creation, it might be difficult to establish unambiguous ownership rights for abstract works such as dance or music in the existing system. However, blockchain technology can be used to establish licensing and trademark rights through smart contracts, reducing patent infringement lawsuits. The use of blockchain and AI can streamline intellectual property transactions, allowing for faster authentication and verification of copyrights, patents, and trademarks. This technique has the potential to considerably benefit technology companies by reducing the number of patent infringement lawsuits filed against them.
Jharkhand has become India’s first state to embrace blockchain technology, which is now being used to track seed distribution The purpose is to improve the transparency and authenticity of the seed quality and quantity received by farmers through seed exchange programmes and other efforts. Through blockchain, middlemen can be eliminated, and real-time monitoring and efficient management of schemes can be achieved. This will be critical in developing transparency in the scheme operations.
In the past decade, the Indian government has launched several blockchain initiatives to digitize the economy. In pursuit of this goal, NITI Aayog has been investigating a platform known as India Chain, which provides infrastructure for Indian businesses and the government.
The Indian Patent Office recently published a tender for expressions of interest in using artificial intelligence and blockchain at the IPO to improve patent search and analysis. The AI engine will hold legal data as well as technological material from any subject of study that can be patented. Each AI engine may be configured to hold data about a specific class of patents, such as electronics.
Blockchain technology has the potential to transform the management and protection of intellectual property by using the blockchain’s immutable ledger and smart contract capabilities, creators and owners of intellectual property can establish a secure and transparent record of their works, manage their licensing agreements, and address issues such as piracy and counterfeiting. It can also streamline the overall IP management process. However, there are still issues to be solved, such as standardisation and greater usage. Nevertheless, blockchain technology holds great promise for the future of the intellectual property.
- Anne Rose, A. a.-L. (2020, July). Blockchain: Transforming the registration of IP rights and strengthening the protection of unregistered IP rights.
- Chain, B. S. (2022, February 10). Blockchain for Protecting Intellectual Property.
- kanoon, I. (n.d.). https://indiankanoon.org/doc/35556724/. central government act ,The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 Section 65B .
- Luo, L. (June 2022). Application of Blockchain Technology in Intellectual Property Protection. Shanxi Vocational University of Engineering Science and Technology, Jinzhong 030619, China.