Maker Foundation Tried and Failed to Register 'DEFI' Trademark

Under current law, the responsibility of defending trademarks falls on the holder of the trademark.

AccessTimeIconAug 23, 2019 at 9:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 11:22 a.m. UTC

In a bid to keep the decentralized finance space free of scam artists, DeFi ecosystem Maker attempted to trademark the term "DEFI."

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Maker Ecosystem Growth Foundation registered a trademark application for DEFI last January. Slang for 'decentralized finance,' the trademark was not granted and Maker is no longer seeking the application.

The filing defined DEFI as a source for “online currency marketplace services, namely, providing a marketplace for trading digital assets.”

The Maker Foundation services a decentralized finance ecosystem consisting of two ERC-20 tokens, the dai (DAI) stablecoin and maker (MKR).

Speaking with CoinDesk, a representative of Maker said it tried to trademark the word for the betterment of the ecosystem:

"The Maker Foundation applied to trademark 'DeFi' with the goal of making it freely available for the whole community to use while also protecting the trademark from being captured by bad actors. We saw other projects trying to trademark 'stablecoin' and didn't want that to happen here as well.

The organization added: "It's important to know that the Maker Foundation has not been granted the trademark for DeFi and will no longer pursue the mark. We understand that the community is capable of protecting itself. We apologize for any confusion or misunderstanding."

Maker's Not Alone

Under current law, the responsibility of defending trademarks falls on the holder of the trademark. Maker, then, would have held the responsibility to defend its trademark in the court of public opinion.

Speaking with CoinDesk, alternative DeFi protocol Dharma applauded the effort:

"We’re glad that Maker took the steps to prevent rent-seekers from exploiting what is clearly a community-driven meme," said Dharma's Max Bronstein. "The term 'DeFi' was always intended to be owned and operated by the community, and it's good that one of the most honest teams in the space has the legal resources required to protect the movement's integrity.

Number of DeFi Products Growing

Recent visual representations from Alethio show the explosion of decentralized finance products over the last nine months.


DeFi protocols can offer a variety of products, from lending to borrowing to trading.

While the number of products is growing, Maker still holds a competitive edge in terms of ether locked up in contracts. The amount of funds locked in contracts can be used as a proxy of demand for DeFi products.

As of August 23, Maker held some 1.4 million ether in contracts worth an estimated $272 million at press time. Comparatively, alternative protocol Compound held some $102 million locked in ether contracts.

Maker image via CoinDesk archives


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