Blockchain is a technology that allows transactions to be digitally recorded in a “decentralized ledger.” The ledger, which is a public database accessible by all participants, cannot be controlled by a single entity and has no single point of failure. In essence, it is a technology that offers a safe, accurate trail of digital information. It is most commonly known as the record-keeping technology behind bitcoin and other digital currencies.

Blockchain technology has wider implications beyond cryptocurrencies. It may help solve complex issues for IP owners, particularly for those engaged in global transactions. For example, blockchain technology enables companies to create a digital trail recording their innovation processes. As such, inventors could use blockchain to document, record and manage their inventions. This would be valuable in establishing proof of inventorship and/or first use in commerce, controlling and tracking the distribution of IP assets, allowing digital rights management (e.g. music or video downloads), enforcing license agreements and/or other distribution networks and transmitting/tracking royalty payments. Blockchain technology also could allow company employees in different locations to collaborate more efficiently by working collectively on projects by adding to each other’s work by blockchain.

Ultimately, effective implementation and use of blockchain technology could have a significant, groundbreaking impact on IP development, ownership and licensing. It remains to be seen how the technology will be implemented effectively and efficiently.