Today we are excited to announce some important steps we are taking on the patent front, why these defensive steps are necessary, and our hope that others will see merit in our approach and follow our lead.
Core to the Bitcoin ethos is permissionless innovation. Without it and the level of contribution to which it gave rise Blockstream would not be on the exciting path we find ourselves today. It should not come as a surprise then that permissionless innovation is also core to Blockstream’s ethos. We firmly believe that in order for Bitcoin and related technologies’ potential to be fully realized they must be underpinned by a global platform that is free for any innovator to use without hesitation.
The ecosystem in which we operate is changing rapidly. Innovation that was once squarely housed within the community and exclusively oriented towards its collective betterment is increasingly being conducted across a growing number of companies around the world. That growth is exciting, but there is no denying that with it comes a complex array of actors and interests, some of whom may be more opportunistic in their thinking when it comes to intellectual property rights. Ensuring that permissionless innovation continues to be the driving force in our space requires an approach that not only accounts for the increasingly complex realities of today but also of tomorrow.
That is why we are taking steps to implement a defensive patent strategy.
The two key elements we are announcing are our Patent Pledge and our modified version of the Innovator’s Patent Agreement. Our Patent Pledge assures developers and users of our technology that we will not sue them for patent infringement, provided they comply with the terms and conditions of our pledge, which essentially asks that they not be patent aggressors themselves. Our modified version of the Innovator’s Patent Agreement is a contract between Blockstream and our engineers that any patents they contribute to creating will be used only for defensive purposes. These are two practical and timely steps for us to take and we feel very fortunate to be supported by investors who understand the significance of these issues not only to our team here at Blockstream but to the realization of an open global platform underpinned by the Bitcoin protocol.
We know there will likely be questions on the details and so we invite you to read our FAQ. Our hope is that by announcing these steps today, others will see their strategic significance for the community and associated ecosystem and will follow suit. We also plan on leading additional defensive patent strategy workshops in the Fall of 2016 to continue discussions on defensive publication strategies as well as the goal of creating a community owned and operated patent pool. If you are interested in participating, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have benefited greatly from all of the constructive discussion and insights contributed at prior workshops from participants across both industry and academia, and we hope to continue that spirit of sharing and learning at future events.