We want to eliminate barriers to innovation, rather than letting patents become one. Further, there is a need for leveling of the playing field – while there are a few companies that hold a large number of patents in the space, even if only for defensive reasons (i.e., to counter against a patent aggressor by asserting their patents defensively), a large number of smaller companies and startups do not have access to patents to defend themselves should they be sued by these aggressors. We need a solution that both removes patents as a blocker to growth and also empowers the entire community to be able to defend against patent aggressors. COPA addresses these concerns through a two-prong approach. First, by making COPA members pledge that they will never assert their patents on foundational cryptocurrency technology against anyone except for defensive purposes, COPA effectively makes such technology freely available for all to use and drives down the incidence and threat of patent litigation in the process. Second, by creating a shared patent library that allows members to use each others’ patents as needed defensively against patent aggressors, COPA empowers everyone in the community with tools and leverage to defend themselves. The shared patent library operates as a shield, which gets larger and stronger with more members joining, for every member – regardless of whether they are small or large, whether they own patents themselves or not – ultimately benefiting the entire community.
COPA seeks to transform how patents are viewed and used – from potentially disruptive weapons to tools that aid in breaking barriers to the innovation and advancement of cryptocurrency technology.
The shared patent library democratizes patents for everyone in the COPA membership by offering a collective shield of patents. Individuals and small companies, that often lack access to patents to use defensively when needed against aggressors, benefit from having access to a potentially large and strong set of COPA’s collective patents to potentially use. Even outside of actually using the patents defensively, every member, small or large in size, benefits from the mere fact of having access to the collective shield of patents. Driving down the incidence of and deterring offensive patent litigation are fundamental objectives of COPA, and the shared patent library helps do exactly that – in helping deter patent aggressors from suing the members, regardless of whether they individually own patents or not, because of their ability to access patents from this collective shield.
The Patent Pledge covers two types of patents:
- patents to technology that are foundational to the development of cryptocurrency applications – that enable the creation, mining, storage, transmission, settlement, integrity, or security of cryptocurrencies, but only as used in connection with cryptocurrencies. This includes, as they apply to cryptocurrencies, any technology relating to cryptography, networks, ledger and smart contract architectures and infrastructure, analytics, protocol and reference implementations, token generation, key creation and transfer, authentication, hot and cold storage infrastructure, cross-platform libraries and connectors, and cryptocurrency programming languages and platforms, and in general, solutions relating to improving the scalability, security, network/computing efficiency, and transaction speed thereof.
- patents covering open source software relating to cryptocurrency.
For clarity, the Patent Pledge covers patents that are directed to foundational cryptocurrency technology as defined above and does not cover patents that cover implementations or applications that only tangentially relate to cryptocurrency. Just because a patent’s “claims” identify cryptocurrencies does not make it a patent covered under the pledge – the crux of the patent’s claims need to cover foundational cryptocurrency technology.
- in self-defense (if the member gets sued by a patent aggressor and the member wants to use its patents defensively against such an aggressor);
- in defense of the community (if anyone else in the crypto community is attacked by a patent aggressor and the member wants to use its patents against such an aggressor); or
- in defense against an impersonator who causes harm to the member’s customers (e.g., a copycat scammer of the member’s products).
Members that own foundational crypto patents can still license, sell, or otherwise use these patents for normal business needs, as long as such transactions are not in violation of the patent pledge (i.e., not related to an offensive assertion of the patents). If a COPA member’s foundational crypto patent is sold or if the COPA member is acquired, the Patent Pledge and accompanying covenant and license stay with the patent.
The Shared Patent Library provides COPA members with access to foundational crypto patents of all other members for defensive purposes. In the event a member is sued for infringement on a crypto patent by a patent aggressor, they can request access to any patent from the Shared Patent Library to defend themselves by counter- asserting the patent against the patent aggressor. Once the member owning the requested patent agrees, that member and the member requesting the patent take on an obligation to engage in good faith to enter into a separate agreement to provide the defending member with sufficient rights to use the patent defensively. Exhibit C of the COPA Membership Agreement provides details on the recommended mechanics for such a transfer, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the parties in this situation.