Square launches cryptocurrency alliance to ward off patent trolls

Shawn Knight

Posts: 13,062   +130
Staff member
Bottom line: Financial services company Square has created a non-profit organization designed to help members of the cryptocurrency community collectively ward off patent trolls. Similar patent alliances for other technologies have proven effective at deterring trolls and spurring innovation over the years, so there’s little reason to think the scheme wouldn’t also work with regard to cryptocurrencies.

The Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance (COPA) is a consortium of like-minded individuals and companies with the singular goal of advancing the industry and the technology that drives it by removing patents as a roadblock to innovation.

COPA members agree to pool all of their crypto-related patents together to form a shared patent library, effectively creating a shield against patent aggressors. Members also must agree not to use their crypto patents against others, expect when defending themselves from patent trolls. This, COPA said, effectively makes member patents freely available for anyone to use.

COPA said there is no barrier to entry, meaning anyone from individuals and startups to large corporations can join.

The group will be overseen by a nine-member committee, comprised of three members from the crypto and open source community, three from founding companies and the remaining three from other members that’ll be elected based on consulting with the community and founding members.

Those interested in joining the alliance can learn more and sign the membership agreement over on COPA’s website.

Image credit: Belish, vchal

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Endymio

Posts: 1,334   +1,216
Speaking on behalf of those of us who generate and own IP, I believe the blanket generalization of "patent troll" is a bit unwarranted.

Also, I believe this article sentence could use a spot of cleanup: "Members also must agree not to use their crypto patents against others, _expect_ when defending themselves from patent trolls. "
 

eforce

Posts: 157   +171
Speaking on behalf of those of us who generate and own IP, I believe the blanket generalization of "patent troll" is a bit unwarranted.

Also, I believe this article sentence could use a spot of cleanup: "Members also must agree not to use their crypto patents against others, _expect_ when defending themselves from patent trolls. "

IP serves no purpose other than to hurt competition, it is a form of corporate welfare, a monopoly gifted the state, national socialism.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,334   +1,216
IP serves no purpose other than to hurt competition, it is a form of corporate welfare...
I believe if you think through the issues involved, you will see this couldn't be more wrong. The Founding Fathers wrote IP protection into the US Constitution, not to give "welfare to corporations" -- almost none existed in the US at the time -- but rather in an attempt to replicate the success story of Great Britain, which transformed itself almost overnight from a sleepy European backwater to the most powerful nation on Earth, in large part due to intellectual property laws.

Before IP protection existed, the only alternative was the "trade secret". In Medieval times, businesses and even individual craftsmen were a secretive bunch; they worked diligently to keep others from learning the techniques they knew, and even formed guilds to protect those trade secrets. As as result, every time one of those craftsmen died or retired, those secrets were lost, and had to be rediscovered. The Medieval era ended in large part because IP protection led to an explosion of knowledge: it suddenly became beneficial to disseminate trade secrets, rather than hold them close.

One fact usually overlooked when discussing patent law is that it is not a free handout, but a two-way trade. In exchange for IP protection, the inventor agrees to publicly disclose every single detail of their invention, allowing others to duplicate it. After a limited protection period, that invention becomes the free property of all.

Certainly IP law has some flaws. Patent examiners often fail to enforce the "obviousness" restriction, copyright (not patent) periods are far too lengthy, and trademark registrations are often abused. But the world is a far better place for those laws. They are as essential to our modern society as laws allowing ownership of personal property, and are as far as possible from the "national socialism" to which you compare them. In fact, the last political party to call themselves National Socialists utterly disregarded IP law and used the Reichspatentamt to promote political goals rather than to protect inventors.
 

eforce

Posts: 157   +171
I believe if you think through the issues involved, you will see this couldn't be more wrong. The Founding Fathers wrote IP protection into the US Constitution, not to give "welfare to corporations" -- almost none existed in the US at the time -- but rather in an attempt to replicate the success story of Great Britain, which transformed itself almost overnight from a sleepy European backwater to the most powerful nation on Earth, in large part due to intellectual property laws.

Before IP protection existed, the only alternative was the "trade secret". In Medieval times, businesses and even individual craftsmen were a secretive bunch; they worked diligently to keep others from learning the techniques they knew, and even formed guilds to protect those trade secrets. As as result, every time one of those craftsmen died or retired, those secrets were lost, and had to be rediscovered. The Medieval era ended in large part because IP protection led to an explosion of knowledge: it suddenly became beneficial to disseminate trade secrets, rather than hold them close.

One fact usually overlooked when discussing patent law is that it is not a free handout, but a two-way trade. In exchange for IP protection, the inventor agrees to publicly disclose every single detail of their invention, allowing others to duplicate it. After a limited protection period, that invention becomes the free property of all.

Certainly IP law has some flaws. Patent examiners often fail to enforce the "obviousness" restriction, copyright (not patent) periods are far too lengthy, and trademark registrations are often abused. But the world is a far better place for those laws. They are as essential to our modern society as laws allowing ownership of personal property, and are as far as possible from the "national socialism" to which you compare them. In fact, the last political party to call themselves National Socialists utterly disregarded IP law and used the Reichspatentamt to promote political goals rather than to protect inventors.

Regarding the Founding Fathers and IP I'd point you to the letter from Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson (1813) about the nature of ideas.

Link: https://web.archive.org/web/2019031...as-jefferson-on-patents-and-freedom-of-ideas/

IP is an infringement of ones liberty, eg: supposing someone came to the same conclusion as another but they didn't patent it first.

Do you have a source as regards to IP in relation to the ending of the medieval era?
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,334   +1,216
Regarding the Founding Fathers and IP I'd point you to the letter from Thomas Jefferson...
I hardly need point out that a random letter from Jefferson is easily trumped by the U.S. Constitution, itself largely penned by him:

[The U.S. Congress shall have power] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

Furthermore, it is factual distortion to claim the letter you cite argues against the existence of IP law. It merely states that inventors do not have a natural and hereditary right to an idea. Rather, Jefferson argues (as he did in the Constitution) that the people, through Congress, own this right and should use it not merely to enrich the inventor, but to promote "the Progress of Science and useful Arts". This is the law we have today.

To fully comprehend Jefferson in the context of that letter, you need to know how he defined lex naturalis, or what exactly he meant by the phrase "natural law". Conflating that phrase with law in general is misguided in the extreme.

I will however partially agree with you on one point. Federal courts overseeing IP cases often forget the crucial point that IP law exists to benefit society, not specific owners. This has led to some abuses, most evident in the area of copyright and trademarks, but even patents have been abused to some extent.

Do you have a source as regards to IP in relation to the ending of the medieval era?
As it has been argued by many authors, the relationship between England being the first nation on Earth to adopt IP law, the subsequent flooding of entrepreneurial inventors and capitol development resources into the country, and the subsequent rapid transformation of it into the first industrialized nation on earth is self-evident.

In any case, one can cite a source for a simple, indisputable fact such as the date Archduke Ferdinand was shot or the average rainfall of the Amazon basin. But for any complex conclusion such as this, citing a specific source is no more than the logical fallacy known as the "appeal to reason". Consider the argument itself, rather than its proponents.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,806   +1,038
IP serves no purpose other than to hurt competition, it is a form of corporate welfare, a monopoly gifted the state, national socialism.
As it is written now, you're not wrong. Patent law often gets used as an anti-competition cudgel, but that is a fault with the implementation of the system, and not the theory behind it. Patenting something is meant to allow people to get a look at how something works, and then improve upon it. Because of this, patents are meant to be hyper-focused and specific - and for products that actually exist already. The problem is the USPO has been allowing filers to submit claims on super-general 'systems', and even on things that might exist one day (but don't just yet). Patents are too much too general right now.

At the same time, the USPO is allowing patents to have extraordinarily long lives, so designers are maintaining their monopolies for very long times. So not only can you not improve upon the design of others, but you can't even release a 'generic' version either.

This kind of consortium is a symptom of the problems that the system faces. Ideally, everyone would have their patents that help them exert ownership rights for a decade or two, but don't stop people from improving upon each other's work. Maybe your patent is immediately improved upon by someone else and you don't make as much as you could have. Maybe it lasts the full life of the patent, and you have plenty of time to establish yourself as the 'brand name' for your invention. Either way, competition is supposed to be a feature of the system, but corporations have sued it out of use.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,334   +1,216
'...At the same time, the USPO is allowing patents to have extraordinarily long lives
To correct an otherwise excellent post, the longest a patent can last is 20 years (design patents are even shorter), and the interval is not controlled by the USPTO. However, some firms artificially extend this period through a staggered "patent thicket" strategy. File the original patent, then, over the years, file a storm of new patents denoting relatively minor addendums. When the original patent expires, the follow-on patents still hold force. Abbvie's thicket around the drug Humira is an excellent case in point.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,806   +1,038
However, some firms artificially extend this period through a staggered "patent thicket" strategy. File the original patent, then, over the years, file a storm of new patents denoting relatively minor addendums. When the original patent expires, the follow-on patents still hold force. Abbvie's thicket around the drug Humira is an excellent case in point.
IMO, this is the fault of the USPO allowing this to occur - and my wording stated as much.