Can blockchain technology solve the anti-counterfeiting and anti-piracy problem?

Counterfeiting and Piracy, respectively the infringement of trademark and copyright law, continues to be rampant worldwide. This is why BlockChain technology is stepping up against these issues.

 

Over the past few years we have been hearing about BlockChain. Blockchain technology is a ‘Decentralized Ledger Technology’ (DLT) that can be related to Intellectual Property in many ways. However, we will now only focus on how BlockChain technology can fight Counterfeiting and Piracy and stop infringement in these fields.

Counterfeiting and Piracy (hereinafter C&P) have become an outbreak in the world economy, regardless of all the mechanisms that authorities use to face infringements. These efforts have clearly not been enough to solve the problem. Here is where technology takes the spotlight. Although technology has many advantages, it can sometimes play against us. For example, e-commerce has made things easier for buyers, but at the same time facilitates the sale and transport of fake goods. Given online shopping is growing exponentially, tracking every single product in order to identify authenticity has become extremely difficult.

Buyers will sometimes rather purchase goods that are cheaper even though they are aware that they might be counterfeited. However, in some cases, the difference can go unnoticed, given the goods are simply indistinguishable or because the price is confusing. In addition, in some situations, online platforms show images of products that do not resemble what is later received through the mail. This is precisely the problem that BlockChain technology intends to solve by giving consumers useful information so they can recognize the goods they are about to buy, especially when making online purchases. The European Commission and the EUIPO organized a large event in Brussels by the name of Blockathon, and thus has taken one of the biggest steps. In June 2018, 11 teams made up of the most talented programmers, worked for 48 hours looking to co-create the next level of Anti-Counterfeiting Blockchain. The challenge was finding a solution by working directly with manufacturers, forwarding companies, customs authorities, retailers and consumers.

Crytomice team took the honor. Thomas Rossi, who was representing the team, explained the project in these words: “Every object will have a virtual twin, a copy of it saved in the blockchain. This copy will have the same serial number (taken from GS1) of the real object. The amazing property of the blockchain is that it is immutable and you can prove mathematically that something is unique. Therefore, even if it is possible to clone an object in the real world, it is impossible to clone the blockchain twin. To be precise, cloning an object on the blockchain is as hard as breaking discrete logarithms. If you can accomplish that, you probably have better things to do than selling fake watches”[1]

Currently we cannot tell for sure if BlockChain will solve the problem, given this issue keeps spreading like wildfire. However, for right holders, this is at least one of the ways to consider protecting Intellectual Property. For an attorney working in this field, it is common to experience that right holders sometimes fear enforcing C&P. However, it is important that right holders understand that fighting C&P strengthens relationships with customers based on the confidence of acquiring a quality and authentic product or service. Additionally, the investments right holders face will pay off when clients understand that there is no other way to legally acquire original services and products that actually guarantee their quality and longevity.  

As Antonio Campinos, current President of the European Patent Office (EPO), states, I believe it is time to explore the potential of Blockchain technology and build a strong network to ensure the authenticity of goods, protect consumers and combat criminal and illegal activities. The EUIPO has taken another big step; on February 2019, it announced the “Anti-Counterfeiting Blockathon Forum” in an effort to develop innovative technological solutions to the problem of counterfeits. Christian Archambeau, current EUIPO executive director, announced: “In today’s fast-moving world, we need to use the latest technology to keep a reliable record of the origin of goods and their progress through international supply chains. Blockchain’s ability to create permanent and unchangeable records makes it one of the best candidates to deliver results on the ground.”

So, what if we start thinking and working in a world where we could simply verify if a product is fake or genuine by simply using our smartphones and Blockchain technology? What if we become part of the strategy to create a Blockchain ecosystem?

 

[1] Source: https://medium.com/@th_s4m0ht/blockchain-can-indeed-fight-counterfeits-eublockathon2018-b6f81579f9e0 18-10-18

 

By:

Estefanía Vargas Esparza
estefania.vargas@olartemoure.com