Transforming ideas into a tradeable asset — how tokenization will disrupt Intellectual Property Rights

The tokenization of Intellectual Property Rights (e.g. patents, copyright) will significantly reshape a stagnating, yet crucial sector. Not only will this lead to increased collaboration and thus better innovation, but also to far more liquidity. Additionally, merger and acquisition related processes are eased as the dependence on bureaucracy when discussing the value of innovations can be neglected. In the US alone, Intellectual Property Rights account for more than a third of the GDP and inherit an estimated value of 6 trillion (!) dollars. This is set to increase even more with the rapid evolution of technology and accelerating innovation thereof. This can be specially seen in the blockchain industry, where a day often feels like at least a week in other sectors. Despite their substantial economical worth, the process of obtaining an Intellectual Property Right and with it financing can be described as outdated. Here applying blockchain technology and subsequently tokenization will rejuvenate the current state of the art and prepare this sector for the fastly approaching digital economy or better: The “tokenomy” of Web 3.0. — Author: Nicolas Weber

Introduction to Intellectual Property Rights

(1) is divided according to subject matter of protection and includes instruments such as trademarks (distinctive sign of product or service), designs and patents (technological innovation or process). A protection and registry in the respective patent and trademark office of a country becomes necessary, if the inventor plans to ban third parties from using it. (2) on the other hand refers to the legal right of the owner of intellectual property. The original creators of products and anyone they give authorization to are the only ones with the exclusive right to reproduce the work. It becomes evident how much value and future growth tokenization can bring to the table here. The reproduction can be conducted much smoother and therefore turning IPRs into a liquid, fungible asset will enable companies to not only finance their business, but also to prevent having to give away their innovations to the wrong people. Some of the most meaningful patents in history are the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell, the car by Karl Benz and the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee. The market for the monetization (e.g. tokenization) of patents is definitely there and auspiciously growing, since the number of patents applied for per year is steadily growing, as illustrated in figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Patent applications annually 1990–2018.

The current, undymanic structure present

Trying to cope with these issues, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) was implemented by 151 countries aiming to abolish regressive structure. However, the plan did not go quite as smoothly as intended. We still have a fragmented validation preventing an unified approach and the PCT again is for instance not on par with the EPO. Further, the PCT still requires multiple different channels of registration based on the destined regions and countries where IPRs are supposed to be protected. Another detrimental aspect here to mention is that prior to utilizing the PCT, one has to fully decide which countries they want to be protected in. Any later changes to this will lead to even more costs, individual processes and time consuming paperwork. One major pain point crystalized itself: A significant lack of standardization making it impossible for companies to efficiently utilize these substantial innovations without the risk of eager competitors simply copying or even improving their idea. Reproduction obviously involves a similarly complex and inefficient process.

When applying for an international patent for example, at least 2000 Euro have to be spent on initial research, then it will be eligible for the registration of the primary check. Within 30 months, a signup in the destined countries has to be concluded individually. Afterwards additional requirements and varying costs in each respective country further bolster inefficiency. Therefore costly patent lawyers have to be hired, familiar often with only the laws in their respective jurisdictions. Consequently, costs become almost unbearable, especially for smaller firms. As a result, the market gradually attains an oligopolistic layer where only larger companies can in fact dictate and thus take advantage of innovation. What has not even been mentioned so far are expensive legal battles when two or more parties argue on the possession of the IPRs and the actual ownership or when merger and acquisition negotiations take place. There is actually no universal databank which lists all protected IPRs in a user-friendly way or even remotely estimates their value. Last but not least, financing this whole process and the efficient reproduction sale are also lacking behind the possibilities of today’s world. Financing a patent, which in turn could be worth millions of dollars in the future, can be, as described above very expensive. Here dynamic methods are missing and much paperwork and friction are harming innovation. In addition to this, when selling the usage or reproduction of an IPR, again many cost and time intensive obstacles have to be surmounted before for instance a patent from company A can be utilized by company B or when company A merges or acquires (with) B and they discuss the value of their respective innovations.

Tokenization and blockchain can solve pain points and turn IPRs into 24/7 tradable assets with transparent ownership distribution

A substantial benefit of tokenizing IPRs and hence applying smart contracts is the fact that the ownership can be fragmented. Subsequently they can be distributed on the open market for investors to raise capital or ownership of the rights can be sold to other parties wanting to utilize the same patent for their own purposes. It could even go as far as that the patent issuer will be rewarded through a pay-per-use system, fully automated with smart contracts. Additionally, ownership transfer or reproduction could be instantly available with full legal compliance. Delaying intermediaries and cost and time consuming paperwork would be a thing of the past. The creation of a frictionless market would be fulfilled. Further, these instant transfers would permit patent holders to limit the various expenses of the earlier described process of receiving a patent. They now have multiple efficient and instant ways to guarantee funding for their innovation by for instance offering them on the secondary market. The underlying blockchain technology will guarantee full transparency while executed transactions and even past ownership could be easily traceable.

As investors tend to be future oriented, tokenized patents provide them the most advanced option to diversify their portfolios. Acquiring complimentary IP assets or licenses needed to IP rights and related protected technologies is similar to a non dilutive company equity. This is a unique source of capital for primarily early stage corporations or entrepreneurs with disruptive innovations. Also this could provide a liquidity boost for pre-profit research laboratories. It will have reduced legal and administrative costs and accounting plus recognition could be handled efficiently. Last but not least, tokenized IPRs are instantly convertible into other assets thanks to the distinct features of ERC20 tokens. Thus they morph into a financeable asset class. The key benefits of tokenizing IPRs with pioneers like Amazing Blocks can be seen below.

Figure 2: Key benefits of digitizing IP.

How to tokenize Intellectual Property Rights with Amazing Blocks

Future outlook and conclusion

Remarks

Amazing Blocks offers a white-label software that enables its clients to tokenize shares of a Liechtenstein legal entity. Legal entities can then be founded based on equity tokens and administered with less effort, in a digital way and remotely from anywhere. The best use cases are legal entities for blockchain startups and as a legal wrapper (special purpose vehicle, SPV) for any tokenized asset (e.g. machines, cash flow generating contracts, trademarks, real estate, classic cars). Our goal is to standardize legal entities which then dramatically reduces the cost and time needed to tokenize assets and rights. Digital legal entities are easy to administer (e.g. ownership transfer of equity in a few minutes) as they rely on tokenized shares in line with the Liechtenstein Token Act. Here, our software helps guarantee a high degree of automation and standardization. In a similar way, fundraising and ESOP for your legal entity can be done anytime: A few click in your software and the shares for the new investors or employees are generated and transferred — inline with the legal entity’s articles of association.

Interested? Then, contact us! Are you interested in what Amazing Blocks is doing? Visit our website, write an email to hi@amazing-blocks.io, or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter. Or provide your email address here and we will immediately send you more information.

Author

Nicolas Weber is Head of Business Development at Amazing Blocks and is your direct contact for any regards. You can contact him via email or connect with him on LinkedIn.

References

Sandner, P., Nägele, T., Gross, J. (2019, October 7). Liechtenstein Blockchain Act: How can nearly any right and therefore any asset be tokenized based on the Token Container Model?. Retrieved from:

https://medium.com/@philippsandner/liechtenstein-blockchain-act-how-can-nearly-any-right-and-therefore-any-asset-be-tokenized-based-389fc9f039b1

Dünser, Dr. Thomas: The Liechtenstein Blockchain-Act (2019, March 3), Government Principality of Liechtenstein

Carson, B.; Romanelli, G.; Zhumaev, A.; Walsh, P. Blockchain beyond the hype: What is the strategic business value? McKinsey & Company.

“Bericht und Antrag der Regierung an den Landtag des Fürstentums Liechtenstein”, Nr 54 2019, Betreffend: Die Schaffung eines Gesetzes über Token und VT-Dienstleister und die Abänderung weiterer Gesetze

“The Era of Tokenization” (2018). Report by Finoa

Cryptoasset Market Coverage Initiation Valuation (August 2018). The Satis Group Report.

“The tokenization of assets is disrupting the financial industry. Are you ready?” (2019). Deloitte

European IPR Helpdesk: “Fact Sheet — Intellectual Property Valuation” (June 2015)

Rose, Ann: Blockchain: Transforming the registration of IP rights and strengthening the protection of unregistered IP rights (July 2020)

Malackowski, James E.: Intellectual Property Coin Token Introduction (September 17, 2018)

Digital legal entities in Liechtenstein based on true equity tokens to tokenize any asset in a standardized way to save time and money. - www.amazingblocks.io