A London, UK based company, A.B.C. IPHoldings South West, appears to have successfully trademarked the name ‘Bitcoin’ in relation to clothing and manufactured products.
The trademark filing dates back to December 22 2017 with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in the United Kingdom. It was revealed after a representative of the company reached out to an Etsy entrepreneur selling t-shirts branded with ‘Bitcoin’. The letter stated “[Our Client] has not authorised your use of the Bitcoin trademark on and in relation to clothing. Such use, therefore, amounts to trademark infringement pursuant to s10(1) of the Trade Marks Act 1994.” Little is know about the company other than one other trademark registration for ‘Westworld’.
The trademark designated as ‘UK00003279106 Bitcoin’ was officially recorded on April 13 2018. The trademark also lists all items that cannot display the ‘Bitcoin’ name without explicit permission such as “adult clothing, infants’ clothing, shoes, headbands, socks, and nearly everything that can be manufactured into a product”. The patent is a surprise to the community since Urban Trend attempted to trademark ‘Bitcoin’ with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) in March of 2015, but was denied. Back in January 2015, The Bitcoin Foundation issued a statement against attempts to trademark the name ‘Bitcoin’ saying it is “a generic term like the terms used for other currencies such as “dollar”, “euro,” “yen,” etc.” and they are “committed to doing what it can to protect the term “Bitcoin” for public use”.
Difficulty of defensive protection within the cryptocurrency space
Cryptocurrency was designed to be open-source for anyone to use and improve, which includes selling the names and logos of cryptocurrencies on shirts without paying royalties or getting permission from any specific centralized organization. However, with the large amount of money in the cryptocurrency space, there is an incentive for bad actors to attempt to corner the market with government protections of trademarks to extract royalties from current market participants.
Within the old system, individuals and companies that wanted to protect open access could simply file defensive patents to protect their property from malicious attacks or file it under the creative commons license. This incident does raise future legal questions due to the fact that it will be extremely difficult for the trademark owner to prove that they created the idea of placing the name ‘Bitcoin’ on clothing items. However, it nevertheless highlights the difficulty of fending off patent trolls when the owners are a loose confederation of voluntary individuals rather than a single individual or company.
Dash can leverage its DAO to help protect the network and community
Dash sets itself apart from other cryptocurrencies by having key stakeholders that are incentivized to act as a responsible party for actively protecting the network even though those stakeholders only own and operate a portion of the network. The Dash DAO is motivated by incentives of the masternodes who have to stake 1000 Dash, a large financial interest, and will vote for projects that they believe will better the Dash network for all users because it will also improve their financial interests.
Dash is able to leverage its unique structure to protect its community from patent trolls while still maintaining its decentralization. First, the Dash Core Team was able to become a legally owned entity by the DAO. Secondly, the Dash Core Team was able to file defensive patents for the upcoming Evolution platform. These features, enabled by Dash’s unique incentives and structure, allows Dash to maintain an open and free network, while also erecting barriers against malicious patent trolls intending to harm the network and the community.