Blockchain, Crypto & Smart Contracts: What they are & what they mean for IP

© 2018 Tonya M. Evans

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Recently, I delivered two presentations in Bangkok, Thailand about the intellectual property implications of blockchain technology. The first was an internal preso for the prominent Southeast Asian law firm of Tilleke & Gibbins, and the second was for the Licensing Executives Society-Thailand Conference.

In each preso, I engaged attendees (live and via video conference) in a macro-level exploration of blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies, and smart contracts to clarify what this relatively new disruptive, empowering ecosystem is, what it means for our collective future as attorneys, corporate leaders, startup founders and entrepreneurs, and its implications in intellectual property law.

Recently, Darts-IP.com published an article I wrote titled IP + Blockchain: A Primer based on some of the information I shared in Bangkok.

I could spend all day every day falling down the proverbial rabbit hole of information about blockchain. There is literally breaking blockchain and cryptocurrency news every minute, if Coindesk’s website and twitter feed are any indication. Each bit and byte of information leads to more information (and misinformation), FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt), FOMO (fear of missing out), and speculation about all of the potential pitfalls and opportunities in this new technology frontier. So it’s difficult for most people to figure out where to begin. If this describes you, you’re not alone and you’ve come to the right place! Read on.

You probably have questions (or you wouldn’t be reading this post). Lots of them. The first may very well be where to begin to get a handle on the power and promise of blockchain. Everyone should have some baseline understanding. But lawyers, in particular, must achieve basic technological competence in this space to be well positioned to help clients solve problems. Given my background and expertise, I am particularly interested in the intellectual property issues triggered by blockchain’s rise in mainstream adoption as research & development use cases transition into full implementation and refinement.

In future posts, I will share trends and current events in the blockchain ecosystem that raise copyright, patent, and trademark issues. Follow me on Twitter @IPProfEvans for breaking IP-related blockchain and crypto news. Below are some blockchain basics that I cover more substantively in IP + Blockchain: A Primer and some additional resources about blockchain, crypto, and smart contracts.

So … what is Blockchain? [Updated excerpt from IP + Blockchain: A Primer Continue reading “Blockchain, Crypto & Smart Contracts: What they are & what they mean for IP”

The countdown is on to RegisterRight!: The ABCs of Protecting Your IP @ #SxSW

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018 9:30 AM-11:30 AM (Central)

Fairmont Hotel Iris Room, 101 Red River, Austin TX 78701

RSVP or catch the Twitter Live Stream @ #RegisterRight

#RegisterRight

Creating a song, script, app, invention or business is just the beginning of any creative’s journey. Too often that can also be the end of the road. Because when creatives focus solely on the creative process without adequately protecting their intellectual property, they leave their copyright, trademark, and patent rights at risk or forever lost altogether. The rules are complex and confusing. This workshop demystifies “the big three” types intellectual property (copyright, trademark, patent) and lays out the specific steps every creative needs to take to protect their IP rights.

Specifically, this workshop:

  • Offers straightforward, clear, and concise definitions and explanations about IP rights
  • Provides a detailed roadmap through the critical first steps of identifying and registering IP rights
  • Details concrete steps creatives and inventors can take to register a copyright, trademark, and patent
  • Explains how startups can avoid intellectual property disputes and the benefits of timely registration
  • Explains how to create a trademark portfolio that doesn’t break the bank
  • Outlines best practices when enforcing copyright, trademark, and patent rights against infringers
  • Covers copyright transfer termination and how to reclaim your copyright after an assignment or license

Join us for the Twitter Live Stream at #RegisterRight & @IPProfEvans

[SxSW-RegisterRight summary deck]

Have a question? Post it in the comments section!

Professor Evans travels to Bangkok to discuss IP implications of Blockchain

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Part of a lawyer’s professional competence includes technological competence. Therefore, every lawyer should have a basic understanding of the business and legal implications of the blockchain and its varied and various use cases.

To that end, I will present an overview of blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, and smart contracts at the law offices of Tilleke & Gibbins (Bangkok, Thailand) on January 31, 2018 and at the Annual Meeting of Licensing Executives Society (LES)-Thailand on February 1, 2018.  This presentation is intended to introduce attorneys of all practice areas to the essential information every lawyer should know about this emerging, global technology.

Ready? Set? Disrupt!

Blockchain technology is poised to disrupt law and business on a global scale in ways neither rivaled nor contemplated since the advent of the Internet. This talk will include definitions of key terminology, an explanation of the two most prominent use cases within this ecosystem (cryptocurrency and smart contracts), as well as intellectual property issues, current events, and likely blockchain trends in 2018.

VIDEO: 203 Copyright Transfer Terminations: All Hype or Finally Ripe?

On Thursday, March 23rd I presented a Lunch & Learn at the University of New Hampshire School of Law’s Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property.

I covered 203 copyright transfer termination rights mechanics, the post-2013 response of copyright creators and copyright-industries when the first termination “window” opened for post-1977 transfers, and stakeholder and commentator forecasts about whether the anticipated termination tidal wave of destruction is more academic than real.

Copyright transfer termination permits a copyright creator to reclaim control of his or her copyright several decades after transferring the right. This applies to all copyright transfers no matter what a contract may say about a perpetual transfer. Creators cannot waive this right. But they can forfeit it if they are not careful.

In fact, some creators have already forfeited their rights if they transferred copyright in 1978 and failed to serve notice of termination by 2016. 

I offered some preliminary conclusions on the future of copyright-dependent industries in light of the 203 termination right.

Watch, listen and learn!

Intellectual property issues and profit disparities for viral social media “stars” @ SxSW

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Join me and this extraordinary panel of experts, Michael D. Armstrong (Viacom), Devin Johnson (Uninterrupted), and panel organizer, Simone Bresi-Ando (I’mPOSSIBLE) at SxSW on Tuesday March 14th at 11 AM: Gentrifying Genius: Urban Creators Stripped Bare.

The panel will explore themes around The Fader’s article: “Black Teens Are Breaking The Internet And Seeing None Of The Profits” in a solutions-focused manner that will not only discuss the ecosystem that maintains the inequalities but also ways to protect and monetize their creative genius on social media.

Simone Bresi-Ando of I’mPOSSIBLE explains:

Black and brown youth are missing out on fruitful and ultimately life changing opportunities and rewards from their intellectual property which remains wildly popular but unpaid and uncredited.

Intellectual Property and Social Media

thumbnail_ImP x SxSW 2017 panelist promo INSTAGRAM graphic PROF TONYA EVANSI will adjust the frame of reference by explaining what intellectual property is, how rights are created, what rights creators control and what they give up when they opt-in to social media platforms, and how creators of color, in particular, can better navigate disparities in what I call the “post-to-profit” pipeline.

This disparity, of course, is not new. Similar misappropriation pervades America’s history with creators of color. In the cinematic suspense phenomenon Get Out, Jordan Peele goes a step further beyond cultural appropriation to examine the ultimate misappropriation of black bodies themselves, genius and all.

This will be a rich, engaging, dynamic conversation. Hope to see you there!

Professor Evans to join the UNH Law faculty Fall 2017!

unh-law-logo-twitter_400x400I am thrilled to announce that I will join the tenured faculty of The University of New Hampshire School of Law this fall as a Full Professor.

UNH Law, formerly Franklin Pierce Law Center, is a leader in intellectual property law, social justice, sports law, and innovative practical preparation and is ranked 82nd by US News & World Report. It is also home to the preeminent Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property (FPCIP) and the UNH Sports and Entertainment Law Institute (SELI).

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I look forward to serving as an integral part of both FPCIP and SELI, and I will also continue my work in the areas of Trusts & Estates and Inclusion & Equity.

[Read the official press release]

 

I am excited to announce that my hiring class includes Ryan Vacca. He is the David L. Brennan Professor of Law at The University of Akron School of Law, where he also serves as the Interim Co-Dean and Director of the Center for Intellectual Property Law & Technology.

My departure from Widener Law Commonwealth is bittersweet; I have loved my time here! WLC has been a tremendous place to evolve as an educator and scholar in the legal academy while surrounded by wonderful, supportive colleagues and inspired by fantastic students (whom I will miss most of all!). Thank you for the well wishes I’ve already received.

Article Alert: Statutory Heirs Apparent explores copyright termination right succession in the entertainment industry

2017-01-18-14-27-04My latest article, Statutory Heirs Apparent: Reclaiming Copyright in the Age of Author-Controlled, Author-Benefiting Transfers (119 W. Va. L. Rev 297 (2016)), explores the intersectionality of estate succession laws and copyright and the unintended conflict between a deceased author’s testamentary freedom and the right of the decedent’s statutory heirs to terminate the decedent author’s lifetime transfers.

A number of notable songwriters have successfully reclaimed control over their copyrights from recording companies: Bruce Springstein, Loretta Lynn, Tom Petty, and an original “Village People” member, Victor Willis, for that perennial Karaoke favorite “YMCA”. They all lived long enough to see the copyright termination window open for their respective rights.

However, some authors are not so fortunate.

Case in point: The Ninth Circuit recently heard Ray Charles Foundation v. Robinson, 795 F.3d 1109 (9th Cir. 2015). That case presents facts analogous to the problem the proposed amendment seeks to resolve; that is, when a statutory heir asserts a termination interest clearly contrary to the decedent author’s wishes.

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In that case, Charles named his private charitable foundation as sole heir of his rights and recipient of his royalties during his life and thereafter. In fact, the Foundation is totally funded by the royalties and is prohibited from receiving any other means of support. Separately, he negotiated with his children (all 12 of them) to waive any right to his estate in exchange for half million dollars into an irrevocable trust for each. He died before the termination window opened. The perfect storm.  Continue reading “Article Alert: Statutory Heirs Apparent explores copyright termination right succession in the entertainment industry”