(1-12-2022) Jack Dorsey Announces Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund
Former Twitter CEO and Block founder Jack Dorsey has announced plans to create a “Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund” with Chaincode Labs co-founder Alex Morcos and Martin White, who appears to be an academic at the University of Sussex.
The announcement was sent on a mailing list for Bitcoin developers, bitcoin-dev, at 13:45 UTC on Wednesday from an email address appearing to belong to Dorsey.
Cointelegraph reached out to the board members to confirm the email’s legitimacy but did not immediately receive a response.
The announcement stated the fund will help provide a legal defense for Bitcoin developers, who are “currently the subject of multi-front litigation.”
“Litigation and continued threats are having their intended effect; individual defendants have chosen to capitulate in the absence of legal support,” the email stated, referencing open-source developers who are often independent and, therefore, susceptible to legal pressure.
“We propose a coordinated and formalized response to help defend developers.”
The announcement went on to describe the Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund as a “nonprofit entity that aims to minimize legal headaches that discourage software developers from actively developing Bitcoin and related projects.”
“The main purpose of this Fund is to defend developers from lawsuits regarding their activities in the Bitcoin ecosystem, including finding and retaining defense counsel, developing litigation strategy, and paying legal bills,” it stated.
Founder of Blockchain Commons Christopher Allen told Cointelegraph that he has “been aware of the problem for some time.” Blockchain Commons, which is a member of the Crypto Open Patent Alliance, had also been in discussions with other companies including Blue Sky and Square Crypto.
Initially, the fund will include volunteers and part-time lawyers for developers to “take advantage of if they so wish,” although, the email also states that “the board of the Fund will be responsible for determining which lawsuits and defendants it will help defend.”
“At this time, the Fund is not seeking to raise additional money for its operations but will do so at the direction of the board if needed for further legal action or to pay for staff.”
According to the email, the fund’s first project will be to take over the existing defense of Ramona Ang’s “Tulip Trading Lawsuit” against developers for alleged misconduct over access to a Bitcoin (BTC) fortune.
Dorsey, who stepped down as Twitter’s CEO at the end of November 2021, is a long-time proponent of Bitcoin. It remains unclear whether Dorsey left the social media firm to focus on Block’s (formerly Square) plans to develop a decentralized Bitcoin exchange.
On Nov. 19, the decentralized exchange project called tbDEX released a white paper detailing its plans to create a message protocol designed to facilitate trust relationships without relying on a federation to control access.
Meta Joins Block’s Crypto Open Patent Alliance As Diem Reportedly Winds Down
By joining COPA, Meta’s “core crypto technology patents” will hopefully avoid future litigation.
Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, is joining the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA), a consortium of tech and crypto companies led by Jack Dorsey’s payments company, Block (the company formerly known as Square).
Meta will join over two dozen other companies who, by joining COPA, have pledged not to enforce their “core cryptocurrency patents” – broadly defined by Max Sills, the general manager of COPA as any “technology that enables the creation, mining, storage, transmission, settlement, integrity, or security of cryptocurrencies.”
The move comes as Meta winds down its Diem project, reportedly selling the project’s intellectual property to Silvergate Bank for $200 million to pay back investors.
By creating an alliance and requiring member companies to share their patents with COPA’s collective patent library, COPA’s goal is to encourage blockchain-related innovation by reducing the likelihood of patent litigation and, according to Dorsey, “help the crypto community defend against patent aggressors and trolls.”
In 2021, COPA filed a lawsuit against Craig Wright, the Australian computer scientist best known for his widely debated claim to be the inventor of Bitcoin, over his attempts to copyright the Bitcoin white paper – an issue that has bedeviled the crypto community for years.
According to Sills, Meta is the largest patent holder that has joined COPA to date.
“It signifies that crypto is becoming a core technology to businesses across industries,” Sills wrote via email to CoinDesk.
When asked whether Diem’s patents would be included when Meta joined COPA, Sills said, “It includes all Meta’s core crypto technology patents in its portfolio.”
It is unclear if the arrangement will also extend to the Diem Association.
While Diem (then Libra) was spun up with a group of corporate backers, Meta also owns Novi, a digital wallet subsidiary launched as Calibra. Novi head David Marcus left the company earlier this month, though the wallet firm did launch a trial service with Paxos’ USDP stablecoin late last year.
Sills told CoinDesk that Meta committed to joining COPA in November 2021.
Shayne O’Reilly, who heads Meta’s licensing and transactions group, will represent Meta on COPA’s board of directors, making Meta the sixth voting member of COPA’s board.
O’Reilly will join Coinbase’s Brittany Cuthbert, Square’s Steve Lee, Dan Robinson of venture firm Paradigm, Jerry Brito of advocacy group Coin Center, and Martin White, head of litigation at Square and COPA’s board chair.
Meta Joins Patent Alliance, Pledges Free Crypto Patents For All
By joining COPA, Meta will become one of 30 other businesses that have committed not to enforce their “core cryptocurrency patents.”
The Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA) has welcomed Meta as a member, with the social media giants vowing to make its core crypto patents accessible to all.
Meta, formerly Facebook, has joined the COPA, a group that advocates for public patents on crypto and blockchain-related technologies. On Monday, the organization published a statement announcing Meta and noting that Shayne O’Reilly would be its representative.
By joining COPA, Meta will become one of 30 other businesses committed to not enforcing their “core cryptocurrency patents.” The general manager of COPA, Max Sills, describes “core cryptocurrency patents” as any “technology that allows the creation, mining, storage, transmission, settlement, integrity or security of cryptocurrencies.”
By forming an association and requiring member firms to contribute their patents to a collective patent library, COPA hopes to stimulate blockchain innovation by lowering the risk of patent litigation.
Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter, commended the development on Twitter stating that “this is great.” Dorsey has declared several times that the crypto market is best served when everyone’s interests are accommodated, not just those of the wealthy.
For years, Meta’s interest in the cryptocurrency market has been obvious. The decision to join COPA follows the official shutdown of Meta’s Diem project. Meta is also reportedly selling the project to Silvergate Bank for $200 million. In addition, Meta also owns Novi, a digital wallet company that was formerly known as Calibra that had started as part of the Libra project, which later became the now-closed Diem.
Last year, COPA sued Australian Craig Wright, better known for his widely disputed claim to be the inventor of Bitcoin, over his attempts to copyright the Bitcoin (BTC) white paper — an issue that has plagued the crypto community for years.
Crypto Patent-Sharing Marks A Step In Democratizing Knowledge Ownership
As the Crypto Open Patent Alliance continues to onboard a growing list of high-profile clients, some experts believe the organization can truly transform the industry.
One of the hallmarks of the crypto industry since its inception has been its commitment to open source development as well as its transparency-centric ethos. This is best made evident by the fact that many prominent projects operating within the digital asset sector and decentralized finance (DeFi) arena today have essentially been derived from other prominent projects such as Bitcoin Cash, SushiSwap and many others.
In this regard, the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA), a group that promotes the advancement of cryptocurrency-enabled technologies by removing patents as a barrier to growth and innovation, recently welcomed social media giant Meta as a member, with the latter vowing to make all of its crypto patents accessible to the world.
To elaborate, Meta — formerly known as Facebook — published a statement announcing that by joining COPA, it will become one of the 30 firms committed to not enforcing their “core cryptocurrency patents.”
On the subject, the alliance’s general manager, Max Sills, pointed out that core cryptocurrency patents refer to those technologies that allow for the “creation, mining, storage, transmission, settlement, integrity or security of cryptocurrencies.”
The goal of the association is to accrue patents from its members to create a collective patent library that will help stimulate innovation within the global blockchain sector by reducing instances of patent litigation.
Soon after the development came to light, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey applauded Meta’s decision, stating that the crypto market functions best when the interests of everyone (not just the wealthy) are considered.
The market reacts to Meta’s move
Antoni Trenchev, co-founder and managing partner at Nexo, a cryptocurrency lending ecosystem, told Cointelegraph that Meta’s decision to join COPA shows that the multinational is up to something big — in the best way possible — adding:
“The fact that the company is solidifying pathways to patenting crypto and blockchain technological innovations means it likely plans on making some such advancements of its own. That’s an auspicious outlook for the space, one that tells us Meta is getting into the very building blocks of our future on-chain life.”
Igneus Terrenus, head of communications for cryptocurrency exchange Bybit, told Cointelegraph that the last few months have not been kind on Meta, referring primarily to its failed Diem project. In his eyes, however, the move to join COPA shows that the firm’s ambition within the burgeoning Web3 space has not yet died and that the company still fancies itself in the ranks of crypto’s “finance heavyweight elites.”
A similar opinion was echoed by Humayun Sheikh, CEO and founder of Fetch.ai, an open-source decentralized machine learning platform, who believes that with Diem no longer Meta’s primary focus, the company is ready to explore other areas for its grand vision for the Metaverse. However, he noted:
“The vision may sound appealing on paper but blockchain is an intensely contested space where companies will be keen to protect their patents. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the vision could translate into adoption.”
Harjyot Singh, technology director at HUMAN protocol, a blockchain-based hybrid framework for organizing, evaluating and compensating human labor, told Cointelegraph that while it is best to not jump the gun as to what Meta’s move may mean in the long run, the development is exciting nonetheless.
“Meta joining the board of COPA indicates not only that they are interested but also genuinely keen on keeping the space open and collaborative,” he added.
COPA’s Potential Impact
When asked about what organizations like COPA can potentially achieve to help strengthen the crypto sector, Sheikh stated that while, on paper, the vision of such alliances may sound quite appealing, blockchain is an intensely contested space where companies will be keen to protect their patents. “Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the vision could translate into adoption,” he stated.
He noted that blockchain technology has democratized access for those who were previously unable to benefit from a new digital economic model, adding that whenever a community builds a new technology it “must protect it by obtaining patent rights” and thus initiatives like COPA could be perceived as anti-competitive within the industry.
Additionally, Terrenus believes that it doesn’t rest on COPA’s shoulders alone to keep the crypto industry transparent and open. However, he said that the firm has been doing its bit over the last many months, alluding particularly to the COPA v. Wright lawsuit.
The alliance took legal action against Australian inventor Craig Wright who tried to copyright Bitcoin’s white paper in 2021, claiming that he was the asset’s pseudonymous inventor Satoshi Nakamoto. Terrenus stated:
“With cryptocurrency and its adoption still in the early stages, there is much that has yet to be determined as to how organizations like COPA can support and contribute to the growth of the digital economy. In order for the industry to thrive, there is a need for constructive dialogues between regulators and experts to allow for innovation for the benefit of all.”
While it would be easy to say that COPA has not done much, Singh believes that is most likely because there isn’t a huge problem with regard to patenting right now, especially given that the open-source culture of this still very young industry.
“I imagine they’re planning for future growth, mainstream adoption and, particularly, for the introduction of the more legislatively minded Web 2.0 companies. That’s why Meta coming on board is interesting,” he added.
Trenchev believes that the best way to ensure that COPA and its patenting system have palpable sway, authority and usage within the crypto industry is by garnering support and endorsement from key companies in blockchain:
“COPA is still in the preliminary stages of its mission of bolstering technological development in the blockchain industry. The organization appears to be working on building a solid reputation and establishing its presence among big names in crypto and beyond which will enable it to facilitate tangible contributions to blockchain in the future.”
COPA Market Clout Continues To Grow
In addition to having onboarded Meta, COPA has also been quietly mustering mainstream support from a number of other prominent crypto projects. In this regard, the firm has been able to accrue the backing of trading platform Coinbase as well as United States-based payments provider Square.
The organization has also entered into long-term partnerships with cryptocurrency exchanges like OKCoin and Kraken as well as Bitcoin- (BTC)-centric R&D group ChaincodeLabs. Not only that, the alliance recently welcomed Michael Saylor who led fintech giant MicroStrategy, DeFi exchange Uniswap and blockchain-based smart transaction platform Chia project to its board of members.
That said, there is a possibility that smaller companies functioning and innovating within the blockchain space could feel threatened by COPA’s increasing market presence since the space was built largely by underdogs that have now grown into full-fledged unicorns and don’t want to lose their weight in the sector. Trenchev said:
“What I would say to this is that innovation sprouts from competition and collaboration, so Meta’s quite clear indications of serious involvement in crypto will propel us all forward.”
Therefore, as we move into a future driven by blockchain and crypto-enabled tech, it will be interesting to see how organizations like COPA are able to affect the development of this industry, especially as more mainstream entities continue to enter the space with each passing day.