24.10.2020

Blockstack Pledges to Enforce Patents for ‘Defensive Purposes’ Only

Blockstack – whose anti-Google slogan is “Can’t Be Evil” – has effectively pledged to not initiate infringement lawsuits against open source developers. The legal goodwill does not appear to extend ad infinitum, though. Blockstack’s “defensive purposes” definition covers economic activities such as the selling, leasing and licensing of Blockstack intellectual property.

Blockstack, the firm building a decentralized backbone for Web 3.0, is open sourcing its patents – kinda.

CEO Muneeb Ali told CoinDesk his firm plans to enforce its patents “for defensive purposes only,” a pledge that could allow independent developers, and even other organizations, to copy Blockstack’s patented designs.

“This pledge means that we’ll never use our patents to try to sue innovators who are helping to build a user-owned internet, and we’ll use the patents defensively only when someone is trying to stifle that innovation,” a document shared with CoinDesk reads.

Ali said Blockstream’s patent strategy is a pragmatic adaptation to the realities of U.S. patent culture.

Pointing to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s first-to-file policy, Ali said tech giants such as IBM and Microsoft have staked their blockchain claims at a blistering clip.

“The large tech monopolies are a big problem already,” he said, “and if they potentially try to hurt the future roadmap of our open source project with patents that’s a very negative outcome for us.”

Blockstack decided to protect its roadmap with patents covering “core innovations.” It was an intellectual property imperative in an environment where others might have tried to exploit Blockstack’s designs, Ali said. “It was the best path forward for us,” he added.

Defensive patents aim to walk that fine legal line, Ali said. Blockstack will refrain from suing infringers that build on patents in an open source and innovative manner. It may nonetheless enforce patents against infringers who are “trying to stifle innovation,” according to the company’s pledge.

BlockFi Hires Credit Suisse, Prudential Execs to Drive Global Expansion

Crypto lender BlockFi is adding two traditional finance executives to help the firm roll out new products and expand into new markets. 

Former American Express executive Wittney Rachlin will join as chief growth officer and former Credit Suisse executive David Olsson as global managing director of the European and Asian markets.

Rachlin comes with 20 years of financial services experience. She most recently served in leadership roles at Prudential Financial and American Express. In addition to overseeing business and product development at the firm, Rachlin will lead the development of BlockFi’s bitcoin rewards card, which will launch later this year.

In an interview with CoinDesk, Rachlin said she’ll target customers who prefer cash rewards over airline miles to convince them that bitcoin is a good rewards asset.

“You need to convince people of why it’s interesting and applicable to them,” Rachlin said.

Olsson also brings 20 years of experience in financial services. He’s managed teams at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (now BofA Securities) and Credit Suisse, covering prime brokerage and equity derivatives.

Olsson will build BlockFi’s first business teams outside the U.S. (although the company already has technical and engineering teams in Europe and Asia). These teams will be made up of sales, trading and credit-risk professionals who will court new institutional customers. Olsson will start first in London and then create a team in either Hong Kong or Singapore.

“BlockFi as a firm has decided not to participate in a recession,” Olsson told CoinDesk. “We feel like we’ve come out of the March gyrations in cryptocurrency stronger, we have a strong balance sheet, and zero losses since the business’s inception.”

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