After entering the US market, Eris Industries hoped their 'troubles with the law' would be behind them, but sadly not. Now, Eris Exchange, whose founder is associated with Blythe Masters’ crypto startup Digital Asset Holdings, is not only trying to secure the Eris name, but perhaps also engaging in anticompetitive litigation.
Eris vs. Eris
Interestingly, the plaintiff Chicago based futures exchange company, Eris Exchange, has a notable founder and board member in the name of Donald R Wilson. Wilson is also a founder and co-owner of Digital Asset Holdings, the crypto-related startup, which Blythe Masters took the helm of back in March.
Although for the record, we should probably state some facts here:
Eris Industries makes free, open source software that allows anyone to produce blockchain-based, secure, low-cost data infrastructure.
Eris Exchange makes a patent-pending interest rate swap futures contract.
In order for there to be trademark infringement, there generally has to be similar goods or services, and a possibility of confusion between them. Although as Eris Industries COO, Preston Byrne, told Cointelegraph:
“It's simply impossible to confuse these things. A database tool has as much in common with a patented swap futures methodology as it has with a pop tart.”
Furthermore, a couple of simple web searches reveal a wealth of companies using the word Eris as either part of the entirety of their trademark, both in the UK and the US. As the Greek word for “strife” one would imagine it will be currently used a great deal.
“While they're at it they should assert ownership over the Greek goddess, the Discordian religion, a dwarf planet, a pharmaceutical company, and a lot of great literature - including Homer's Iliad and Hesiod's epic poem Works and Days.”
So What Has Happened Exactly?
An initial cease and desist letter sent to Eris Industries in January of this year received a swift rebuttal. Nothing followed, and in February this trademark went through unopposed, suggesting Eris Exchange had backed down and there was no case to answer.
Then on June 3, shortly after the story broke about Eris Industries getting ready to leave the UK, the UK Intellectual Property Office sent notice of threatened trademark opposition. Eris Exchange (confusingly now also sometimes using the name Eris Innovations), made further filings in the US last week, coincidentally just days after Preston Byrne gave a talk at the American Banker Digital Currencies Conference.
Further than claiming that the Eris name belongs to them, it is unclear what the specific intentions of Eris Exchange/Eris Innovations are.
Perhaps they have always had ambitions on the blockchain? Or perhaps the timing and the Donald R. Wilson link are just coincidence, and they simply have too much money to spend and a deep-seated desire to support the legal profession?
Whatever the motivation behind it, Eris Industries are adamant that they have been using the mark in both the UK and the US, and have a right to do so:
“[…] our business (database software) is not a business in which Eris Exchange/Eris Innovations operates - and thus not a business in which they have an exclusive right to use it.
“I can see why they might want to get into blockchain, but we were here first, and our name is worth protecting. We built Eris Industries from scratch with our bare hands; a year ago, we were three guys and an idea. Today, we count some of the world's best companies as our users. We're not going to take this lying down.”