The Relationship And Implication Of Intellectual Property On Cryptocurrency

  1. Introduction

The emergence of block chain technology especially crypto currency has come with a lot of concerns. This is not far from the fact that crypto currency is considered to be  volatile with the potential for significant upward and downward movements over shorter time periods.

As crypto currency is becoming well known, several industry professionals have openly questioned whether attempts to copyright, patent, or trademark a particular crypto currency  linked with them can ultimately impede or temper the technology’s spectacular growth.[1]

If the founders of a startup using a certain blockchain technology or cryptocurrency perceive a certain procedure, technique, or even piece of code to be especially crucial to their operation, they may naturally seek legal protection. Based  on the foregoing, the question now is whether there is an existing relationship between crypto currency and intellectual property law? What is the implication of intellectual property law on crypto currency?

The writer’s intent is to critically examine the relationship between crypto currency and intellectual property law and the implications of intellectual property law on crypto currency.

2. Conceptual Clarifications

For purpose of clarity, the writer defined some basic concepts like crypto currency and intellectual property law.

  • Crypto currency

Crypto currency can be defined as any kind of money that exist digitally or virtually and employs inscription to safeguard its transactions.

This digitalized system  used by crypto currencies is to keep track of transactions and to create new units rather than a central body that controls them or issues them with the use of crypto currency, transactions may be verified digitally without involvement of banks. [2]

With the help of this peer-to-peer technology, it makes it possible for anyone to send and receive payments. In an article published by Coinbase, it was stated that cryptocurrencies are fundamentally decentralized digital currencies intended for online use.[3]

Also, according to Forbes Adviser, Digital currency known as cryptocurrency is decentralized, based on blockchain technology, and encrypted.[4]

  • Intellectual Property Law

Intellectual property law deals with laws governing “intellectual property”—also known as inventions, literature, music, drawings, and other works—are concerned with safeguarding and upholding the rights of those who create and control these works.[5]

Intellectual property encompasses a number of different types of property, such as copyright, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets.

In an article published by Georgetown Law, it was states that a complex of laws known as intellectual property law regulates all pertinent aspects of intellectual property rights, including ownership, registration, protection, licensing, assignment, and longevity.[6]

3. Relationship Between Intellectual Property Law and Crypto Currency

The relationship between intellectual property law and crypto currency results from the fact every innovation or creative ideas deserves a legal backing and legal protection. As such, crypto currency is one of the  technological innovation which requires a legal protection whose right is to be protected by intellectual property law.

As most intellectual property lawyers are aware, there has always been a great deal of conflict between the importance of invention and the legal protection that intellectual property law offers. 

It is important to recognize that modern intellectual property law has not yet been fully applied in the field of blockchain technology, despite the fact that both opponents and proponents of intellectual property law can see how it may either encourage or stifle innovation, depending on where you stand.[7]

Additionally, detractors of the protection provided by intellectual property laws for blockchain technology contend that bitcoin and blockchain technology already have built-in self-regulatory systems.

By this, they imply that if people are displeased with a cryptocurrency, they can easily construct a totally different one by duplicating the blockchain data already in use and making enough changes to produce rival currencies. As a result, many contend that blockchain technology must continue to be open-source in order to succeed.[8]

4. Implication of Intellectual Property Law on Crypto Currency

The attempts made by numerous parties to develop something novel in relation to blockchain technology frequently lead to ideas that don’t actually advance the technology but instead come up with uses for it that are built into the system itself.

It is comparable to the distinction between creating new software and repurposing old software for brand-new commercial applications. The latter could not be copyrighted, but the first could.[9]

Although, more often than not, the description of the invention—not just its nature—is the key. In order to safeguard IP, proper phrasing is crucial in all situations, and this is also true for blockchain and cryptocurrency technology. The constantly changing nature of technology and the regulations that govern it constitute another problem.

Due to the very abstract nature of blockchain technology and its uses, as well as the rules governing it, it is crucial to stay up to date with advancements when it comes to developing and patenting your own cryptocurrency-related intellectual property (IP). If not, your own inventions can be jeopardized if they are used by others.[10]

However, detractors of the legal protection that intellectual property laws offer for blockchain technology further assert that bitcoin and blockchain technology already have self-regulatory mechanisms built in.

This implies that if users are unhappy with a cryptocurrency, they can quickly create a whole other one by copying the blockchain information that is already in use and making sufficient changes to create competitor currencies. Many believe that in order for blockchain technology to succeed, it must remain open-source.[11]

5. Conclusion

There is an existing relationship between Crypto currency and Intellectual Property Law. This is to protect the rights of the inventors and encourage creativity in the  block chain industry.

Though it is arguable that blockchain cannot be patented, however several people believes that crypto currency have an in built intellectual right and can be sue when there is breach of intellectual property right.

About the author:

Rifkatu Ali is a final-year law student at Edo State University Uzairue (EDSU). She is an active learner, legal writer and researcher who has a strong penchant for legal writing and legal research.

Rifkatu Ali  has written many articles and won several essay. She has interest in Tech Law, ADR, Corporate/Commercial Practice and Human Rights amongst others. She had interned virtually with Omaplex Law Firm, Legal Ideas Forum International and Hilton Top Solicitors and currently interns physically with Ipkonmwosa  J. Eguakun & Co.

Rifkatu is a leader and has been appointed  the Director of Research at the National ADR Research and Editorial Board. She is the Edo State Director of Learned Minds and the Speaker of EDSU LAWSA Legislative House.

[1] Celes Keene : ‘The Intersection of Cryptocurrency and  Intellectual Property Law’ Klemchuk LLP (  February 27, 2018) .  accessed 21st September,2022

[2] Kapersky : ‘ What is Crypto Currency and How it works’ accessed on September 21, 2022

[3]Coinbase : ‘ What is Cryptocurrency’ accessed on  21st September 2022

[4] Forbes Advisor : Cryptocurrency and How Does it Work? ( September, 2022) accessed on September 21st, 2022

[6]Geoegetown Law: ‘Intellectual Property Law’ Accessed on 21st September 2022

[7] Birgit Clark, Baker McKenzie :  Blockchain and IP Law , A Match Made in Crypto Heaven’ WIPO Magazine ( February, 2018)  accessed on 21st September, 2022

[8] Celes Keene: op.cit

[9] Hart David Carson : ‘ Licensing & Intellectual Property Law – Cryptocurrencies’  accessed on September 21st,2022

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

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