WIPO PROOF, the prelude to the Blockchain?

Written by:

Fabiola Saenz


In previous articles I have dealt with Blockchain as a possible ally of Intellectual Property, studying the theory and uses that it has had in other fields of law and commerce. This topic has piqued my interest because of the disruptive component present in blockchain and its potential for application in the IP field.  I was pleased when I recently learned of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) launch of its new product PROOF. While WIPO confirms that it is not yet using Blockchain’s technology for this project, it does not rule out the possibility in the future. Also, the platform it currently uses for this project, a technology called PKI (Public Key Infrastructure), has some similarities with Blockchain.


However, regardless of whether Blockchain is used, PROOF has great benefits and makes available to the public various tools for the protection of Intellectual Property in a very broad spectrum. The approach is quite valuable. The main point of the new platform is to provide creators and inventors with a system that allows them to prove that their creation exists in time. This is achieved by way of a work or creation’s registration with a certain date that is duly registered as it is, a notary seal. The user or creator receives a type of fingerprint, which remains confidential and secret, that signs the work.


PROOF innovates by using this type of technology to protect Intellectual Property rights in situations that already required a global and digital solution.  Transcendental issues such as the paternity of an artistic work; the protection of industrial secrets; the protection of source codes and programming, formulas, methods, recipes, and even the establishment of contracts, and licenses, among others, are some of the benefits PROOF provides.  As its name indicates, “proof” or evidence, generates the registration or proof of the creation for the due protection that its owner deserves.


The endorsement and promotion of PROOF, by an entity such as WIPO, represents a major advance in the protection of intellectual property rights. WIPO’s more than 130-year history as a supervisory and control body for the works registered is without doubt an endorsement of the platform. Additionally, it is a step forward and an example for trademark, patent, and copyright offices around the world, which are in the process of evolving with tools that allow for a more efficient way of protecting intellectual creations. 


Certainly, this initiative fills practical gaps that are detrimental to innovators, encouraging development through an innovative system of protection of intellectual property rights.


Why PKI and not Blockchain?

The question of why WIPO used PKI technology and not Blockchain is unavoidable, given the effectiveness that Blockchain has had in other areas such as e-commerce and the Fintech (Financial Technology) industry.  WIPO responds with the following arguments:

Firstly, it is worth noting that the generation of digital evidence of intangible rights, for use in courts around the world, is a sensitive issue since, in some environments, if it derives from public platforms as in the case of Blockchain, it is not well received.  Therefore, they indicate that WIPO as a centralizing, neutral, and regulating figure of such evidence, gives PKI a higher validity.  On the other hand, they indicate that they rely on a platform that cannot be altered, which is no different from Blockchain since unalterability is precisely one of its star characteristics.  Additionally, they argue not to use Blockchain because as it is a public registry, it ceases to be anonymous, and many inventors and innovators will prefer that their works are not only confidential, but also anonymous.  In the case of PROOF, the works do remain anonymous since only WIPO knows through the “token” that the creator requested the annotation of the work.


Notwithstanding the above, WIPO claims to be considering the possible inclusion of Blockchain components as a complement to, but not a substitute for, PKI technology, considering that Blockchain is an optional component for the customer.


In summary, having analyzed the proposal as a whole, as I pointed out at the beginning of this article, I applaud WIPO’s initiative with this new tool and its approach to validating and safeguarding rights over intangibles; I am sure that in the future it will expand to more instances and new, and different options will be born that will bring about better opportunities for creators and innovators.

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