The Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance, or COPA, headed up by finance company Square, recently picked up Coinbase as a cornerstone participant. Square unveiled the group in September as a method of warding off patent overreach — an issue that has been known to limit technological advancement.
Coinbase senior counsel and COPA board member Brittany Cuthbert said in a public statement from the alliance on Friday:
“As the crypto economy continues to grow, we believe it is important to help empower all projects building towards an open financial system. [...] We look forward to working alongside the members of COPA to create a foundational patent shield for our industry.”
Lasting 20 years, patents essentially lay claim to innovations that are deemed proprietary, barring competitors from producing similar products or services, or using certain technology. Although open-source technology is a common theme in the crypto and blockchain industry, various entities have claimed patents for certain advancements in the space, including Block.one and Samsung.
The statement further explained:
“COPA believes that cryptocurrency’s success depends on the community coming together to build and develop upon existing technologies to innovate, which is not possible when parties tie up foundational technology in patents and litigation.”
Patents do have use in the world, COPA believes, although boundaries can be overstepped, leading to issues. “While patents may at times be useful for defensive purposes, offensive and misguided use of patents threatens the growth and adoption of emerging technologies such as cryptocurrencies,” the statement reads. “There is concern that 'patent lockup' of foundational cryptocurrency technologies by a select few will stifle innovation and deter mass-adoption.”
Roughly 12 years ago, pseudonymous Bitcoin (BTC) creator Satoshi Nakamoto published their now infamous white paper. The revolution that has followed was likely made possible in part by the open-source underpinnings of the outlined technology.
“COPA seeks to make foundational technology on cryptocurrency available for everyone to freely use and tackles the patent lockup concern using a dual approach,” the statement said.
COPA currently boasts 18 members: Square, Coinbase, Blockstream, Kraken and 14 others. Members abide by a code, which includes refraining from using “their crypto patents against anyone, except for defensive reasons.”