Jack Dorsey’s payment company is inviting other cryptocurrency firms to join its “alliance” to pool patents and preserve the industry’s open-source spirit.
- Square said Thursday it has launched what it calls the Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance (COPA), a non-profit that wants to stop companies from locking up useful technologies in patents, a practice Square says hamstrings innovation.
- "Locking up foundational cryptocurrency technologies in patents stifles innovation and adoption; and offensive use of patents by bad actors threatens the growth of cryptocurrency technologies," Square said in a statement.
- In addition to companies jealously guarding their own work in crypto, some firms go further, filing what are called "pre-emptive patents" for ideas they have no plans of developing but which act to hinder the research of competitors.
- To become part of COPA, members must pledge to make their patents freely available to all other members using a shared library.
- This library will act as a "collective shield" protecting members from "patent aggressors," said Square – which ventured into crypto in 2018 and has already committed to putting its own crypto patents into the new library.
- The only exception will be those filed to preserve existing patent applications.
- The number of cryptocurrency and blockchain-related patents in the U.S. doubled between 2016 and 2017; in the past year, Microsoft filed a patent for a mining system powered by physical exertion and IBM for a token that is a "self-aware."
- Assuming the patent library grows and gathers momentum, the idea is that more and more companies will look to join COPA to access tech innovations – creating a more equitable patent environment.
- Any company that works in crypto, regardless of whether it has patents or not, will be eligible to join COPA.
- COPA will be an entirely separate entity from Square, with its own independent board of directors, a spokesperson confirmed.