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Revolutionising Intellectual Property Rights with Blockchain Technology


In stimulating innovation and creativity, World Intellectual Property Day is celebrated yearly on April 26.

In this day and age where blockchain technology is adopted to protect Intellectual Property (IP), its potential to revolutionise the management and maintenance of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) by providing a secure, decentralised, and tamper-proof database for managing ownership and transactions is seen. This ensures that ownership of IPRs is not controlled by a central authority such as a government agency, a corporation, or an individual, but rather stored on a distributed and transparent ledger that is constantly updated by a network of users and is difficult for any user to manipulate or control the ownership of the IP.

When a creator or owner of IP registers on a blockchain, a unique digital record or token is created and secured by cryptographic algorithms which ensures that it cannot be duplicated or modified without the owner's consent. The ownership or control of the IP is then transferred via peer-to-peer transactions on the blockchain network and recorded on the distributed ledger, providing a transparent and tamper-proof record of all ownership transfers. This means that there is no need for intermediaries such as a regulator, patent agents, banks, lawyers, or government agencies to validate or enforce ownership transfers as it will be done by the network of users on the blockchain.

For example, a blockchain-based system can be used to record and track the ownership and licensing of agreements, patents, copyrights, trademarks, and other types of IPRs. Each transaction once recorded cannot be altered or deleted. This is especially important in industries such as music, film, and software, where piracy and the unauthorised use of intellectual property can be a major problem.

Decentralised ownership and control of IP on a blockchain provides several benefits to anyone with an internet connection, including increased security and transparency, more cost-efficient management of IP by enabling automation of processes through smart contracts, and promotes innovation and creativity by reducing barriers to entry, thus enabling more people to participate in the creation and distribution of IP. This leads to a more diverse and inclusive community of creators and users, which can help drive innovation and economic growth.

Central authority in the traditional system has the power to grant or deny ownership or usage rights to others by setting the terms and conditions. This can lead to several issues, such as monopolies and corruption whereby central authority may grant exclusive ownership or usage rights to a single entity, causing an uneven playing field, competition, higher prices, limited access to IP and opportunities for innovation and economic growth. Additionally, central authority may also have the power to censor or restrict the distribution of certain types of IP that can limit the free flow of ideas and information, and prevent people from accessing IPs that may be important for research, education, or innovation.

Hence, a decentralised system has less potential for monopolies, censorship, corruption, counterfeiting, and unauthorised changes to IPRs ownership or licensing, which can help to deter infringement and ensure that creators and owners of IPRs are equally compensated for their work.

One of the most significant features of blockchain technology is the use of smart contracts. A smart contract is a computer programme that automates licensing agreements when certain conditions are met, making it easier for creators and owners of IPRs to monetise their work to third parties. The terms of the agreement are written directly into the code, and once the conditions are met, the contract self-executes without the need for intermediaries, reducing transaction costs and time.

For example, royalty payments are automatically distributed to copyright owners every time their work is downloaded or used in a commercial setting. The contract can be programmed to verify the authenticity of the transaction, calculate the correct royalty amount, and transfer the funds directly to the copyright owner's account, without the need for intermediaries such as banks or record labels.

In addition, blockchain technology can make it easier for small businesses and individual creators, especially blockchain-based entertainment and creators platforms to enter the market and compete with established players. This in turn provides consumers with more options and greater access to innovative and unique content – ultimately benefiting the entire entertainment ecosystem of creators, consumers, and businesses.

With over 25 years of experience in the field of Research and Development, Innovation Management, and as a Technology Strategist, Ts. Mohd Roydean bin Osman is the Vice President of Innovation & Commercialisation at Taylor’s University’s Centre for Research & Enterprise: Knowledge Transfer & Commercialisation.