Crypto patent-sharing marks a step in democratizing knowledge ownership
One of the hallmarks of the crypto industry since its inception has been its commitment to open source development as well as its transparency-centric ethos. This is best made evident by the fact that many prominent projects operating within the digital asset sector and decentralized finance (DeFi) arena today have essentially been derived from other prominent projects such as Bitcoin Cash, SushiSwap and many others.
In this regard, the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA), a group that promotes the advancement of cryptocurrency-enabled technologies by removing patents as a barrier to growth and innovation, recently welcomed social media giant Meta as a member, with the latter vowing to make all of its crypto patents accessible to the world.
To elaborate, Meta — formerly known as Facebook — published a statement announcing that by joining COPA, it will become one of the 30 firms committed to not enforcing their “core cryptocurrency patents.” On the subject, the alliance’s general manager, Max Sills, pointed out that core cryptocurrency patents refer to those technologies that allow for the “creation, mining, storage, transmission, settlement, integrity or security of cryptocurrencies.”
The goal of the association is to accrue patents from its members to create a collective patent library that will help stimulate innovation within the global blockchain sector by reducing instances of patent litigation. Soon after the development came to light, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey applauded Meta’s decision, stating that the crypto market functions best when the interests of everyone (not just the wealthy) are considered.
The market reacts to Meta’s move
Antoni Trenchev, co-founder and managing partner at Nexo, a cryptocurrency lending ecosystem, told Cointelegraph that Meta’s decision to join COPA shows that the multinational is up to something big — in the best way possible — adding:
“The fact that the company is solidifying pathways to patenting crypto and blockchain technological innovations means it likely plans on making some such advancements of its own. That’s an auspicious outlook for the space, one that tells us Meta is getting into the very building blocks of our future on-chain life.”
Igneus Terrenus, head of communications for cryptocurrency exchange Bybit, told Cointelegraph that the last few months have not been kind on Meta, referring primarily to its failed Diem project. In his eyes, however, the move to join COPA shows that the firm’s ambition within the burgeoning Web3 space has not yet died and that the company still fancies itself in the ranks of crypto’s “finance heavyweight elites.”
A similar opinion was echoed by Humayun Sheikh, CEO and founder of Fetch.ai, an open-source decentralized machine learning platform, who believes that with Diem no longer Meta’s primary focus, the company is ready to explore other areas for its grand vision for the Metaverse. However, he noted:
“The vision may sound appealing on paper but blockchain is an intensely contested space where companies will be keen to protect their patents. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the vision could translate into adoption.”
Harjyot Singh, technology director at HUMAN protocol, a blockchain-based hybrid framework for organizing, evaluating and compensating human labor, told Cointelegraph that while it is best to not jump the gun as to what Meta’s move may mean in the long run, the development is exciting nonetheless. “Meta joining the board of COPA indicates not only that they are interested but also genuinely keen on keeping the space open and collaborative,” he added.
COPA’s potential impact
When asked about what organizations like COPA can potentially achieve to help strengthen the crypto sector, Sheikh stated that while, on paper, the vision of such alliances may sound quite appealing, blockchain is an intensely contested space where companies will be keen to protect their patents. “Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the vision could translate into adoption,” he stated.
He noted that blockchain technology has democratized access for those who were previously unable to benefit from a new digital economic model, adding that whenever a community builds a new technology it “must protect it by obtaining patent rights” and thus initiatives like COPA could be perceived as anti-competitive within the industry.
Additionally, Terrenus believes that it doesn’t rest on COPA's shoulders alone to keep the crypto industry transparent and open. However, he said that the firm has been doing its bit over the last many months, alluding particularly to the COPA v. Wright lawsuit. The alliance took legal action against Australian inventor Craig Wright who tried to copyright Bitcoin’s white paper in 2021, claiming that he was the asset’s pseudonymous inventor Satoshi Nakamoto. Terrenus stated:
“With cryptocurrency and its adoption still in the early stages, there is much that has yet to be determined as to how organizations like COPA can support and contribute to the growth of the digital economy. In order for the industry to thrive, there is a need for constructive dialogues between regulators and experts to allow for innovation for the benefit of all.”
While it would be easy to say that COPA has not done much, Singh believes that is most likely because there isn’t a huge problem with regard to patenting right now, especially given that the open-source culture of this still very young industry. “I imagine they’re planning for future growth, mainstream adoption and, particularly, for the introduction of the more legislatively minded Web 2.0 companies. That’s why Meta coming on board is interesting,” he added.
Trenchev believes that the best way to ensure that COPA and its patenting system have palpable sway, authority and usage within the crypto industry is by garnering support and endorsement from key companies in blockchain:
“COPA is still in the preliminary stages of its mission of bolstering technological development in the blockchain industry. The organization appears to be working on building a solid reputation and establishing its presence among big names in crypto and beyond which will enable it to facilitate tangible contributions to blockchain in the future.”
COPA market clout continues to grow
In addition to having onboarded Meta, COPA has also been quietly mustering mainstream support from a number of other prominent crypto projects. In this regard, the firm has been able to accrue the backing of trading platform Coinbase as well as United States-based payments provider Square.
The organization has also entered into long-term partnerships with cryptocurrency exchanges like OKCoin and Kraken as well as Bitcoin- (BTC)-centric R&D group ChaincodeLabs. Not only that, the alliance recently welcomed Michael Saylor who led fintech giant MicroStrategy, DeFi exchange Uniswap and blockchain-based smart transaction platform Chia project to its board of members.
That said, there is a possibility that smaller companies functioning and innovating within the blockchain space could feel threatened by COPA’s increasing market presence since the space was built largely by underdogs that have now grown into full-fledged unicorns and don’t want to lose their weight in the sector. Trenchev said:
“What I would say to this is that innovation sprouts from competition and collaboration, so Meta’s quite clear indications of serious involvement in crypto will propel us all forward.”
Therefore, as we move into a future driven by blockchain and crypto-enabled tech, it will be interesting to see how organizations like COPA are able to affect the development of this industry, especially as more mainstream entities continue to enter the space with each passing day.