We believe there needs to be a global native currency for the internet. Just as everyone should be able to participate in the economy and have access to the same tools and services, so too should everyone be able to participate in cryptocurrencies and have access to its underlying innovation.
At Square, we are committed to making our foundational technology on cryptocurrency available for everyone to use. Cryptocurrency technology and its adoption is still at a nascent stage. We believe that cryptocurrency’s success depends on the community coming together to build and develop upon existing technologies to innovate, which is not possible when parties tie up foundational technology in patents and litigation. While patents may at times be useful for defensive purposes, offensive and misguided use of patents threatens the growth and adoption of emerging technologies such as cryptocurrencies. There is concern that “patent lockup” of foundational cryptocurrency technologies by a select few will stifle innovation and deter mass-adoption.
That’s why we’re excited to announce the launch of the Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance (COPA), an invitation to everyone in the crypto community to join an open patent alliance to address these concerns. COPA tackles the patent lockup concern using a dual approach. First, COPA members pledge never to use their crypto patents against anyone, except for defensive reasons, effectively making these patents freely available for all to use. Second, COPA creates a shared patent library where members pool all of their crypto patents together to form a collective shield of patents, allowing members to use each others’ patents to deter and defend against patent aggressors. This helps democratize patents for everyone, empowering even small companies with tools and leverage to defend themselves.
As more members join and declare that they won’t offensively assert their patents against others, the overall incidence and threat of patent litigation comes down. Owning patents are often the best deterrents to ward off patent aggressors but not every company possesses or has access to patents. The shared patent library provides this shield, which gets larger and stronger as more members join, to every member – regardless of whether they are small or large, whether they own patents themselves or not – ultimately benefiting the entire community.
We hope that COPA will transform the way patents are viewed and used in the crypto world, and that it will help patents contribute to further innovation and advancement of cryptocurrencies rather than operate as obstacles. We envision the organization evolving over time, and look forward to discussions and feedback from the community to realize this mission.