Software has always been vulnerable to copyright infringements. Intellectual property (IP) rights can include the copyright of the program code, documentation and UI, as well as patents covering the underlying ideas.
But these are important safeguards afforded to companies who conduct innovative software development.
The protection of intellectual property rights is a vital process, too.
If a company does not prosecute IP infringements or worse, then they expose themselves to more frequent abuses.
There are various methods employed by companies to protect their intellectual property but it can sometimes be particularly hard to preserve digital assets, not least when software piracy remans rife and has never been effectively combated.
New technologies, however, offer other means of protection and this is evident in the growing world of blockchain.
What is intellectual property in the context of software development?
There are four broad types of IP that protect software rights in different ways: patents, copyright, trade secrets, and trademarks.
They cover everything from the exclusive right to make, use, and sell inventions (patents) to licensing IP and creating modified versions of the invention (copyright).
Together, these rights protect the owners of IP from rivals and thieves. But, as technology develops, so too must the measures employed to protect valuable digital assets.
How will blockchain keep IP safe?
As with anything when preparing to prosecute an IP infringement, the first step the victim needs to take (second only perhaps to asking the guilty party to stop) is to prove that they own the legal rights.
This may not always be an easy task. Blockchain, however, does this by design.
Blockchain technology allows for peer-to-peer transactions which are recorded on immutable distributed ledgers.
It can also facilitate the secure execution of smart contracts, a process whereby certain conditions must be met before a transfer is made.
These ledgers offer a way to prove who owns an asset and furthermore safeguards against duplication and counterfeiting.
The underlying protocol of the technology has never knowingly been hacked which makes it the safest option for the protection, selling, and licensing of digital assets.
Blockchain based platforms are emerging to help protect and liquidate IP
Smart contracts are a large part of it...
They facilitate negotiations, such as the licensing of IP to other companies, with total transparency and reduced risk of unclear terms. Startups like LEXIT also seek to enable companies to easily sell intellectual property and assets without compromising security.
Meanwhile companies like Polymath, who have partnered with LEXIT, are working on a blockchain-based model that allows the owners of IP to migrate their abstract assets into smart contract enabled tokens.
The tokenization of abstract assets allows the owners of the IP to keep their assets safe and also provides the option to sell or license them to others with ease.
In the same way, LEXIT is developing a solution to help companies find buyers willing to pay for unused IP or the rights to develop the ideas of others.
Developing a new idea is often costly and the research required can slow companies down or make a project less economically viable.
This means that big players look to buy IP as a time-saving mechanism. In the tech world, internet giants like Facebook regularly buy up patents.
It is no wonder the phrase “M&A is the new R&D” has entered the industry’s lexicon.
With a booming intellectual property market it becomes increasingly important that companies have the tools to protect themselves.
Blockchain technology can offer that protection whilst streamlining the entire process to make sure that innovation is rewarded like never before.