Intellectual property (IP) rights, and particularly patents, are often thought of as being associated with the latest and most advanced technologies. It is thus ironic that the registration and management of IP is dependent on the most ancient of information technologies: the document. Whether physical paper or digital, documents and good document management practices are critical to managing IP.
Documents, however, come with certain inherent challenges: human error, lack of transparency, and intentional fraud. In this blog post, we take a look at how a truly transformational technology, blockchain, can revolutionize the IP industry.
Blockchain in Time
In their influential 1991 paper “How to Time-stamp a Digital Paper”, computer scientists Stuart Haber and Wakefiled Scott Harnetta sought to answer what now seems an obvious and logical issue: how to certify when a document was created or last changed. Winning the Discover Award for computer science the following year, the relatively simple model they made became the basis for one of the most revolutionary developments in the world of finance, namely Bitcoin.
The abstract of their paper noted that the world was witnessing an increasing digitization of all forms of data, such as documents, pictures, videos etc. The challenge was developing a way to time-stamp the data to render it tamper-proof. The method, which later became known as blockchain, focused on decentralization, rendering the process free of a central, overarching control and developing unique algorithms called hash, which act as proof of authenticity.
Is it Worth ?
Super Bowl advertisements and their ability to influence buying decisions have been a subject of research for premier institutions. A paper published by Stanford observed that advertising during the Super Bowl helped in fostering positive associations between a brand and viewers. Mc Granaghan et.al (2016) provided an even more valuable insight who documented that both the number of viewers in a room and their attention increased during the commercial breaks. This is not surprising as the ads surrounding the Super Bowl have become an industry in itself, with many reports indicating that over 40% of Super Bowl viewers tune in to the commercials instead of the game. Of course, the emotional bond an ad can create between a consumer and a company influences decision-making more than anything. The real benefit of placing advertisements in the Super Bowl is generating Brand awareness.
As noted in an article by Nielsen, “After airing, Super Bowl ads typically reap the benefit of social media chatter and people engaging with the advertised brand. Many consumers also seek out ads they missed during the game, further increasing viewership.”
Unlike a traditional database that organizes data in a table, blockchain technology collects data in blocks. Simply put, a block can be seen as the receptacle of information with a finite capacity. Every time new data is entered into a computer system, it is stored in a block. Once the block is complete, it is linked by a chain with the next block, which becomes the destination for the next piece of information until full. The system is unique because each block is given a unique time stamp allowing users to identify the exact time when a particular data set is added to the block.
Blockchain technology, also known as Distributed Ledger Network, utilizes multiple features to ensure the safety of data stored in the system. First and foremost is Distribution. Blockchain ditches reliance on any individual third party to check the veracity of the information and the transactions carried out on the network. The hierarchical system is done away with in favor of a peer-to-peer network which gives multiple users access to the entire network to verify the transactions. Furthermore, a blockchain permits storing the same data set within multiple network nodes at diverse locations. Thus, any hacker or virus attempting to alter the data stored in the blocks can, at best, hope to change it on one network while the other networks remain intact. Further, any attempt to manipulate the data can be thwarted in real-time. All the users on the network can witness the entire process of the data being stored in the blocks in real time; hence efforts to go back to the blocks and alter the content can be collectively challenged.
Another key feature is the conversion of data into a hash. A hash is a computational algorithm that converts any input, regardless of length, into an encrypted code of fixed length. What makes the hash safe is that a hacker can’t use a hash to decipher the original information where the hash was created, as the hash is one-way, making reverse engineering impossible.
One of the key benefits of blockchain technology is that it allows multiple parties to access and verify the same information without the need for a central authority. This feature makes blockchain an ideal solution for industries that rely on secure and transparent record-keeping, such as finance and supply chain management.
Uses of Blockchain
Since its introduction, blockchain has held out its advantages to various industries looking for an immutable and transparent method to document their work. Its security and transparency can be of particular use in the Intellectual Property (IP) field. It does, however, have its challenges.