IP + Blockchain = Geneva!

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Credit: WIPO

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My trip to Geneva has been marvelous. What a beautiful city with wonderful people here in the epicenter of global initiatives for diplomacy and business. I am fortunate to have visited here during the General Assemblies because there is so much going and so many thought-leaders from around the world in the city currently. Makes for rich opportunities to connect.

Yesterday, I participated in an invitation-only. roundtable discussion, hosted by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), on the issue of disruptive technologies and trade for sustainable development. I shared remarks about the impact of blockchain technology on IP and international trade. This was a wonderful next step after my remarks about international dispute resolution at the Blockchain Central conference held during the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week.

Today, I present at World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Lunchtime Learning for over 150 WIPO lawyers and staff. I will give an overview of blockchain’s distributed ledger technology, cryptocurrencies and smart contracts. And then take a closer look at some of the copyright, patent and trademark issues and implications of blockchain.

Not many lawyers are actively practicing in this space, although the numbers are growing. It is still very early, even though the Bitcoin blockchain was first released in 2009. But there is a lot of new technology and use cases of interest to clients, organizations and policymakers. So lawyers need to be out ahead of these innovations and in a position to advise clients about how their businesses are going to be impacted. And how their businesses or governments might leverage the technology, if appropriate.

Lawyers do not necessarily need a technological background to have a robust practice in this space or achieve a depth of knowledge. I do not have a technological background, I’m just a (very cool and creative) nerd and life-long learner with a father who’s a doctor and a mother who’s a patent attorney. But for lawyers having some computer science or STEM background, or who commit to unpacking and truly understanding this technology, those lawyers will surely enrich their area of subject matter expertise and increase the value-add to servicing clients and, perhaps, using this technology to solve the world’s biggest problems.

Clients are either in an industry that will be disrupted or want to invest in those technologies or have to deal with their own customers’ questions about Blockchain, cryptocurrency, smart contracts. There is a hunger for information in order to, among other things, honor the 2030 SDG 9 regarding innovation and to figure out what this means for intellectual property now and in the future. And that’s where we as lawyers supply added value. That’s where we problem solve and, if we’re successful, where play a vital role in transforming the world.