Cointelegraph can reveal that reports of Bitreserve facing a trademark lawsuit because of its use of the name “Bitgold” are unfounded.
A recent article in Altcoin Press suggested that Nick Szabo, who supposedly trademarked the name “Bitgold”, could bring a lawsuit against the digital money service.
The article, however, appears to be complete speculation. Cointelegraph checked the United States Trademark and Patent Office and found no registered trademark under the name “Bitgold”.
The article included a screenshot of comments made by Mike Lorrey, the alleged co-creator of the original Bitgold currency, left below a promotional Bitreserve video:
“You cannot use the word Bitgold that was coined by myself and Nick Szabo a decade ago when we devised the prototype to Bitcoin. Cease and desist.”
Lorrey spoke with Cointelegraph this morning and clarified his remarks. He stated that he had no intention of suing Bitreserve and likewise had no knowledge of any such intention of Szabo’s to pursue the matter. Lorrey also clarified the legal position as follows:
“… [I]t is my understanding that you cannot trademark a term that has been published previously and in the public lexicon. The fact that the word Bitgold is in Nick Szabos copyrighted articles would mitigate against any trademark claim by any third party. Bitgold is not trademarked but was coined by us over a decade ago in copyrighted works.”
Since Szabo is the copyright holder, it would be his decision to pursue any litigation, but unless Bitreserve attempts to register a trademark it is questionable whether he has grounds to sue under US law.
There is no doubt that Szabo originally coined the word more than a decade ago. His original article, “Unforgeable Costliness”, was copyrighted in 2004. In his discussion of Bitgold in that article, however, he seems to be using it as a theory rather than a specific physical entity.
“I have proposed using such a scheme to generate bank-independent online money -- bit gold. Current digital cash schemes suffer from the need for a trusted third party to issue digital bearer notes, worthless (like a piece of paper or plastic) in themselves, but redeemable for government fiat currency or a collectible. With bit gold, the piece of cash would itself be unforgeable costly, like a piece of jewelry or a non-fiat coin. In other words, bit gold would be online collectibles, unforgeable costly bits, money not dependent on trust for its value.”
Szabo appears to be proposing an idea, similar to decentralization, rather than a specific product or program and this might not be enough to justify a lawsuit, should he consider one in future.
If Szabo does consider a lawsuit he might also have to consider adding another defendant to the case because a Canadian startup is also using the name Bitgold. The Toronto-based company is using gold as a base for Bitcoin, which is not at all what Szabo planned in his scheme. Szabo is notoriously reclusive, however: the article in Altcoin Press seems have been designed to generate controversy where there was none to begin with.
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