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”

Evans chapter on copyright appears in ‘Hip Hop and The Law’ anthology pub’d by Carolina Academic Press

I am excited to announce the official publication of the anthology, Hip Hop & the Law, edited by the late Pamela Bridgewater (formerly a professor at American University School of Law), andré douglas pond cummings (Vice Dean and Professor of Law at Indiana Tech Law School), and Donald F. Tibbs (Associate Professor at the Drexel University School of Law).

I am honored that my contribution,  Sampling, Looping and Mashing … Oh My! How Hip Hop Music is Scratching More Than the Surface of Copyright Law“, appears in this formidable collection of essential reflections by many of today’s leading critical thinkers. From professors, to practitioners, to creatives, Hip Hop and the Law curates a host of diverse voices to analyze and assess the interdisciplinary intersection of American jurisprudence and hip hop music and culture.

bridgewater coverWhat is important to understanding American law? What is important to understanding hip hop? Wide swaths of renowned academics, practitioners, commentators, and performance artists have answered these two questions independently. And although understanding both depends upon the same intellectual enterprise, textual analysis of narrative storytelling, somehow their intersection has escaped critical reflection.

Hip Hop and the Law merges the two cultural giants of law and rap music and demonstrates their relationship at the convergence of Legal Consciousness, Politics, Hip Hop Studies, and American Law.

No matter what your role or level of experience with law or hip hop, this book is a sound resource for learning, discussing, and teaching the nuances of their relationship. Topics include Critical Race Theory, Crime and Justice, Mass Incarceration, Gender, and American Law: including Corporate Law, Intellectual Property, Constitutional Law, and Real Property Law.

About Hip Hop & the Law published by Carolina Academic Press

‘Dumb Starbucks’ parody shuts down but debate over trademark law & parody continues

By Professor Tonya M. Evans

dumbstarbucks-cupsOn February 9th, The Huff Post and other media outlets reported the grand opening of a store in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, “Dumb Starbucks”. The clever prankish parody even caught the attention of Forbes:

‘Although it looks like Starbucks, smells like Starbucks and even acts like Starbucks (the super-friendly baristas asking for your name were hired off Craigslist), the whole thing is an elaborate goof on Starbucks culture. A list of Frequently Asked Questions posted on premises compared the place to Weird Al Yankovic’s homage to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Dumb Starbucks, you see, is the “Eat It” of $6 coffee drinks.’ Source: Forbes.com

Amazingly, people stood in line for hours for the Dumb Starbucks java, which reportedly was whatever the local grocery store had on hand for the few days Dumb Starbucks remained open. The locals and media alike seemed to get a big kick out of the entire thing. Starbucks execs? Um, not so much. The Dumb Starbucks mastermind, Comedy Central comedian Nathan Fielder from Nathan for You, explained the method to his parodic madness and the Starbucks response to Jimmy Kimmel recently:

The store shutdown for reasons completely unrelated to the trademark vs. parody debate. It seems that Fielder not only caught the attention of the coffee giant, Starbucks, but also the local health department. The Health Department cited code violations for selling coffee without a permit. And there is no word on whether Fielder will attempt to secure the necessary permissions to re-open. But what is sure to re-open and remain so is the debate on whether the First Amendment and parody trumps trademark law. Continue reading “‘Dumb Starbucks’ parody shuts down but debate over trademark law & parody continues”