By Frédéric Dionne, Partner and Trademark Agent at BCF, Canada & Victor Garcia, Co-Director and Founder at HSS IPM GmbH, Switzerland
What is blockchain?
A blockchain is a digital spreadsheet of transactions where no single centralized party keeps a “master” record, but instead the task of record keeping is shared among the participants in the system. Each participant has a complete record of all transactions that happen in the system. The underlying technology verifies that all users are keeping matching records, and that the records have not been tampered with. The result is an immutable record of transactions.
Possible blockchain applications for Trademark Offices
The core features of blockchain could help Trademark Offices to automate the trademark registration process and to better manage all the steps leading to the registration of a trademark. Blockchain would allow for each step in the process to be verified with a record of transaction. Further, data security could be improved by involving different systems integrated in a network – giving the user a secure and easy experience while ensuring that the trademark registration process is properly completed.
We see five key positive implications for the use of blockchain in the trademark application context:
2.Better evidence record keeping;
3.Reduced errors and omissions; and
4.Improved efficiency and resource management for trademark offices.
5.Making the payment process easier for applicants.
1. Increased speed
Blockchain technology could help to automate the registration process safely and permit the issuance of correspondence automatically by a Trademark Office, without additional administrative delays.
The steps to register a trademark (assuming there are no objections and no oppositions), from the issuance of a filing receipt to the issuance of a certificate of registration, are the consequence of standard and predictable actions. Such actions include, for example, the issuance of a filing receipt, a notice of approval, a notice of publication, a notice of allowance or a certificate of registration. With blockchain technology, all these official correspondences could be issued automatically without any unpredictable/unnecessary administrative delays. This aspect alone could result in major benefits for prospective brand owners in terms of speed and accuracy in the progress of their trademark applications.
2. Evidence record keeping
“Evidence of use” is often required to be filed by trademark applicants and owners at regular intervals. Such filings could be integrated within the trademark registration process via blockchain. In these cases, applicants and registrants could submit such evidence utilizing a platform where the time, date and circumstances of first use or subsequent use is recorded. Thus, all submitted the evidence of use would be accessible and could be easily amended.
Smart contracts could also be used as a part of keeping filing evidence; for instance, by confirming an electronic filing authorization via executing a smart contract with trademark offices, including the payment process. Taking it to the next level of efficiency, the payment process could also be combined with a cryptographic token for payment purposes.
3. Reducing errors and omissions
Blockchain technology could reduce the errors and/or omissions in correspondence issued by Trademark Offices. Blockchain could support the auto-completion of documentation such as filing receipts, notices of approval, notices of publication, notices of allowance, certificates of registration and more. In all such documents critical information such as dates, descriptions of goods and services, serial and registration numbers, etc could be automatically generated – thereby reducing the potential for human errors and omissions.
4. Staff and process efficiency as well as lower costs
Blockchain technology could also help to automate the processes such as office actions, opposition proceedings, issuance of notices of default, extensions of time and notices of abandonment. All predictable steps, such as the ones mentioned here, could be automatically generated after a specific action is entered and confirmed by blockchain.
By automating aspects of the trademark registration process via blockchain technology, trademark office internal administrative delays would be reduced and processes could be leaner. This would enable trademark office staff to focus on higher value work where skilled human input is needed, as well as to reduce overall costs.
5. Making the payment process easier for applicants.
Blockchain technology via smart contracts could also be of great help to make easier the payment process during a trademark filing; for instance, by using a cryptographic token issued via a smart contract between the Trademark Office and the Applicant.
Growing volumes of trademark applications filed throughout the world have in some cases led to challenging backlogs and delays at local trademark offices. In light of this pressure on trademark offices and the inherent features of blockchain, this technology has the potential to provide significant benefits. Such benefits would extend not only to trademark offices but also to potential and current trademark owners. We anticipate that blockchain will make trademark registrations easier, faster and more secure. Trademark offices should therefore give serious consideration to the possibility of implementing blockchain technology in the short to medium term future.