Blockchain is a peer-to-peer network that validates cryptographic transactions. It does this by encrypting the transactions, time-stamping them, and then relying on multiple pieces of information from multiple sources to ensure the transaction is both accurate and complete.

Blockchain technology is no longer limited to Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrency. Now, it also provides a way for you to protect your intellectual property. Here are three ways we expect blockchain to change IP law in the future.

1. Intellectual Property Becomes Easier to Track.

In the same way blockchain records financial transactions, it can record information regarding IP.

Currently, it can be cumbersome to ensure that an entity owns each intellectual property item it says it does. As the number of IP items grows, so does the workload to ensure the ownership is accurate.

For example, let’s say you have a team of engineers. The team develops a new invention and even files a patent application on the invention. However, the team fails to assign that application the company or, if they do, the assignments are never recorded.

In this instance, every individual on the team would own 100% of the rights to the invention. Those individuals can transfer those rights their at their own will, assuming no employment agreement is found for every inventor.

Now, imagine that the patent application is then transferred in a corporate acquisition to a new company. Years down the road, the patent receives a Notice of Allowance. How do you know definitively who owns the rights to this invention?

When corporate transactions occur, there can be hundreds of patents and trademarks transferred over time. All kinds of errors can occur due to speed, a missed assignment here or there, or simple ignorance.

Blockchain has the potential to eliminate these errors and assure accuracy.

2. The Consumer Receives Protection From Counterfeit Products.

Smart trademarks are a digital likeness of your IP that protects your property as well as the consumer. Smart trademarks may be connected to blockchain technology. Doing so enables smart trademarks to identify:

  • When your trademarked product was created
  • When it’s sent from the manufacturer
  • Who manufactured it
  • When it arrived at a distributor
  • When it arrived at a wholesaler
  • And finally, when it arrived to the consumer

Through the use of smart trademarks, the consumer is then assured they own an actual, trademarked product versus a counterfeit product.

3. Enforcing Your Trademark Becomes Easier

There’s also talk of using blockchain to track trademark use in the marketplace, which could be exceedingly helpful.

For example, let’s say two individuals have similar trademarks. One individual uses the trademark for the first time today. The other uses the trademark for the first time tomorrow.

Blockchain could provide proof of who really used the trademark first, and who has the rights to the trademark. It’s innovations like these that would assist you in enforcing your trademark on someone else.

Would Blockchain Remove the Need for Government Protection?

Even with all these ways blockchain could help inventors better protect their IP, it still does not eliminate the need to file your patent unless the U.S. government makes changes to its own IP protection processes.

But, regardless of how blockchain impacts IP protection in the future, you’ll always have some sort of government entity controlling IP. This way, if needed, you can enforce your IP rights in a government court.

How Soon Can I Expect Blockchain to Impact IP Law?

Whether you welcome or dread changes to IP protection, how quickly can you expect these types of changes to come about?

I expect the change to happen slowly at first, then quickly ramp up. For example, as soon as companies begin relying on blockchain technology to win IP rights in court (i.e., establishing a first-use date for a trademark for certain goods/services), you’ll have more IP attorneys suggesting their clients use blockchain technology.

Savvy companies won’t wait to jump on the bandwagon, either; they’ll see blockchain’s benefits sooner rather than later.

The major delays in implementing blockchain for IP protection on a broad scale would likely come from just getting the right infrastructure and systems — particularly at the government level — up and running.