Blockchain, in simple words, is an anonymous online ledger, which keeps a growing list of records, called blocks, linked using cryptography where each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data. It was invented back in 2008, as a Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System by an inventor with the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.
It is a concept, simple yet so complex and diverse in its use-cases, some people already speculate that this is a phenomenon similar to the revolution brought by the Internet. Speaking about the industrial application of the blockchain –Finance is one of the leading areas this technology is traversing its roots into.
The early birds to file a patent on blockchain were big financial institutions including Bank of America, Mastercard International, and Goldman Sachs. In India, a few patent applications based on the technology have been filed as well. Other than this, smart contracts, shared economy, governance, file storage, Internet of Things (IoT), identity management, data management, stock trading, healthcare and life sciences sector, e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, automotive, luxury and consumer goods, etc. are the fields in which the technology is gaining pace.
Blockchain and IPR: A hand-in-hand relationship
IPR and Blockchain go hand in hand –on one side the IPR protects Blockchain and Blockchain can serve to strengthen the existing IP regime on the other. With the world realizing the enormous potential of Blockchain, IPR is going to play a vital role in creating a protected environment for the development of the technology. On the other hand –reliability and security offered by Blockchain can be used to strengthen every step of the life cycle of IP rights such as resolving disputes over ownership, creating licensing agreements via blockchain smart contracts, identification of counterfeit products or simply creating an IP register for registering keeping a record for all form of IP rights.
And this may not really be a thing of the future too distant in time after all –There are some early adopters who seem to have already started offering services to this end.
IPO (Indian Patent Office) initiatives
A lot of countries around the world have started realising the potential of blockchain and India is no exception – the IPO is keen on staying at par with the technological advancements and expects to be able to foretell timelines for users concerning different actions to be taken by the office. A scientifically-handled workload-based allotment of patent applications to examiners will make optimal use of human resources available. Automated checking against formal requirements such as application formats, attachments, and so on, can reduce the manual intervention required, and speed up the process considerably. Reduced manual interference will also affect transparency and accountability procedures in an optimistic way.
To achieve all of the above, the IPO is setting up a legal framework for a Blockchain-based IP registry to protect and commercialize smart ideas. More information on the same can be obtained here: Redefining and Transforming Patent Services in India.
There is, without doubt, an enormous potential for the use of blockchain for the benefit of IP industry. But, like any emerging technology, there are a few setbacks. Currently, these include the huge processing power required and limitations on the number of transactions per hour. Regarding the ultimate notion of a method to connect registries across the world through a single distributed ledger, the reality is far from simple. Successful management of IP rights using blockchain requires standardized platform that is internationally adopted.
By Amit Aggarwal, Co-Founder and Director, Effectual Services