By Professor Tonya M. Evans
Welcome to this week’s CryptoSmartEsq News, my carefully curated list of current legal issues and events in blockchain and crypto.
If you’re new to this exciting, fast-developing space, check out the introductory video in the first CryptoSmartEsq news post. Follow me on Twitter at @CryptoSmartEsq (my blockchain and crypto-focused feed) and @IPProfEvans (my intellectual property-focused feed) and #EvansontheBlock for daily legal bits & bytes. Affiliate links noted with $.
I took a two-week hiatus for personal and professional travel and commitments. And boy has a LOT happened in this time. I am reminded what actual breaking news is … it happens every few minutes or so, it seems, in the blockchain ecosystem. In fact, I’ve changed my Top Story three times in as many days. I won’t attempt to capture every bit of law-related news that happened since the last issue. But I will hit the high notes so dive in to this week’s #CryptoSmartEsq news.
~ Tonya Evans @IPProfEvans & @CryptoSmartEsq
This week’s #CryptoSmartEsq News includes:
- Another successful trademark registration in the UK of the term BITCOIN
- The tension between the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and blockchain’s primary characteristics of transparency and immutability
- CFTC issues guidance for clearing houses and exchanges planning to list cryptocurrency-related derivatives products
- CFTC probe into possible price manipulation
- Numerous blockchain patent filings by legacy companies eagerly (or reluctantly) entering the blockchain space.
- Korea’s regulation of crypto
- About blockchain lawyers
Leave a comment and tweet me your news items.
A London-Based Company Successfully Trademarks the Name ‘Bitcoin’
A number of crypto news outlets reported that a UK-based company successfully registered the term BITCOIN with the UK’s Trademark Office:
Some of the coverage inaccurately describes what has happened and confuses the different types of intellectual property (trademark, patent, copyright etc.). However, it is true that a company named A.B.C. IPHOLDINGS SOUTH WEST LLC c/o MONOPOLIP LTD (London, SW6 1BE, United Kingdom) filed its application on December 22, 2017. The mark BITCOIN was officially registered (UK00003279106) on April 13, 2018.
This UK trademark registration of the mark BITCOIN covers hundreds of products in classes 25 (clothing), 32 (non-alcoholic drinks) and 33 (alcoholic drinks). Several crypto news outlets (linked above) reported recently that in a letter dated May 25, 2018, A.B.C. Holdings demanded that a UK-based Etsy website”cease & desist” its sales of Bitcoin paraphernalia.
Many people responded in the comments sections of the articles above that registering the term BITCOIN is “illegal” or, at the very least, completely contrary to “Shatoshi Nakimoto’s” vision for Bitcoin. The latter is certainly true (unless A.B.C. Holdings is “Shatoshi” … not likely), however registering the word BITCOIN in connection with the sale of goods and services isn’t, in and of itself, unlawful. In fact, there are 26 registered BITCOIN marks in the UK (as of the date of this posting). There are 23 registered marks that include BITCOIN in the United States. In the US, however, no applicant has successfully registered the word BITCOIN apart from other words and all registered marks have disclaimed the use of BITCOIN separate from the claimed mark as a whole.
- USPTO publishes Mastercard blockchain patent [WorldIPReview.com]
Called “Method and system for payment card verification via blockchain”, the patent was published on Thursday, June 7. It was filed in December 2016. The patent describes a method for conveying a “first public key” and payment credentials through a third-party data source by completing a number of steps. [read more at WorldIPReview.com …]
- From Patents to Partnerships, the 10 Biggest Companies on Earth Are Investing in Blockchain [DailyHODL.com]
Corporations are exploring blockchain technology at a rapidly increasing pace with a steady stream of blockchain-related announcements coming from LG, Walmart, Apple and many other tech titans. The primary focus is on understanding how distributed ledgers can improve their services and their bottom line.
CryptoSmartEsq Note: This post discusses patent filings by ICBC, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Apple and Bank of China.
Law & Government
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has released new guidance for clearinghouses and exchanges planning to list cryptocurrency-related derivatives products.
After years of watching the $346 billion cryptocurrency industry and preparing from the sidelines, the regulators from the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra) recently released a flurry of guidance statements. [read more at Forbes.com …]
The Korea Financial Intelligence Unit (KFIU) and other local financial agencies will regulate cryptocurrency exchanges like banks, imposing strict anti-money laundering (AML) policies to ensure criminals do not utilize cryptocurrencies to finance illicit operations.
Blockchain technology companies, however, are worried they may not be able to do enough to comply with their GDPR obligations. Not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t.” [read more at Law.com …]
- Read about what some call the “Blockchain-GDPR Paradox” (A.V. Humbeeck)
Crypto lawyers are experts in blockchain technology and cryptocurrency regulations. They help break down the technology to court during litigation. They also help break down the laws for cryptocurrency developers, exchanges, and startups. These lawyers are the designated liaison between the crypto world and lawmakers. The two biggest areas where cryptocurrency lawyers are important are ICOs and Exchanges. [read more at CoinCentral.com …]
CryptoSmartEsq Note: Another major area not mentioned in this article, of course, are the copyright, trademark and patent lawyers working in this space as well. Legally trained technologists who enter every sector will have a leg up on the competition. From healthcare to environmental law and everything in between. The financial sector is an obvious focus given that the first use case for blockchain technology was cryptocurrency. But with each new use case across sectors, we will see legally trained technologists making a significant impact in how the law develops and is interpreted.
Cases and Enforcement Actions
The CFTC has said bitcoin is a commodity and believes that designation gives it authority to look for fraudulent trading on exchanges, even if the venues aren’t subject to the panoply of rules that futures markets face.
The CFTC in May issued a warning spelling out expectations for approval of new cryptocurrency derivatives. The CFTC said “a heightened level of monitoring” of the bitcoin market is “warranted” for exchanges that want to launch new futures products. [read more at WSJ.com …]
Professor Evans to speak at the following events:
June 14, 2018
- Panelist, Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center (San Francisco, CA)
July 11-15, 2018
- Panelist, Lutie Lytle Black Women Faculty Workshop & Writing Retreat (SMU Deadman School of Law, TX)
- 7/13 Developing Your Brand and a “Side Hustle”
- 7/14 Blockchain Technology: Smart Contracts, Wallets, Mining and Cryptocurrencies
August 9, 2018
- Panelist, 2018 SEALS Annual Conference August 5-11: Blockchain and the Law (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
August 10, 2018
- Plenary Presenter, Intellectual Property Scholars Conference (IPSC) August 9-10, Cryptokitties, Cryptography & Copyright, Berkeley Law (Berkeley, CA)
September 20, 2018
- Presenter, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Lunchtime Learning (Geneva, CH) (internal presentation re: IP & Blockchain)