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Blockchain and intellectual creations

By Felipe Dannemann Lundgren, partner and lawyer at Dannemann Siemsen, and Yannick Schweizer, lawyer at Dannemann Siemsen - 14/03/2019
Blockchain and intellectual creations

In the last year we have seen a real meltdown in the value of the so-called cryptocurrencies. However, for the legal world, what really matters is the technology behind these currencies, the famous chain of immutable blocks, or simply "blockchain”, which has potential application in almost all areas of law.

Blockchain is a kind of continuous-growth digital database that can be used to record or track transactions. At certain time intervals, the system produces a block of new transactions, and such block of information is added to the previous one. The created blocks are thus immutable, distributed in a decentralized way in the network and interconnected with each other in an encrypted form. So, since a particular transaction is registered in a blockchain network, it is virtually impossible to erase it or modify its content, whose history, by the way, can be checked by anyone.

It is mainly these characteristics - immutability, decentralization, and transparency - that generate tremendous interest in this technology. In the area of intellectual property blockchain has the potential to offer quite interesting alternative or complementary solutions to the methods already used for the protection of intellectual works.

In Brazil, the so-called "creations of the spirit" - texts, films, music, photographs, drawings, scientific articles, slogans, etc. - are protected by copyright and are independent of registration. However, proof of authorship, particularly from the date of creation of the intellectual works, becomes extremely important in situations of conflict, or in cases where the work is used by third parties without the author's permission.

Currently, it is possible to obtain registration for such works in institutions like the National Library, the School of Fine Arts and even in notary offices. Those options, however, are often excessively bureaucratic, slow and/or expensive, making them unattractive for the protection of certain types of intellectual works, for example clothing collections or advertising films.

It is in this scenario that blockchain can be used quite simply and effectively. As outlined above, in addition to being immutable, transactions recorded in blockchain are specifically dated and therefore have a timestamp. The registration of works in blockchain therefore allows robust proof of the exact moment of the creation of the works. There are already countless platforms offering this type of service on the Internet or through applications.

To date, we are unaware of the existence of judicial decisions in Brazil recognizing the admissibility of evidence registered in blockchain, especially in the area of intellectual property. Considering, however, the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, which determines the admissibility of all means of evidence in the Brazilian legal system, we do not see, in principle, any obstacle to the use of documents registered in blockchain in our country.

There is already a pioneering legislation in the US state of Vermont recognizing the validity of electronically recorded documents in blockchain. Abroad, blockchain technology has already begun to be used as evidence in judicial cases, worth noting a decision issued in June 2018 by the Hangzhou Internet Court, in the context of a copyright infringement lawsuit related to the content of a journalistic article whose hash had been registered in the Factom and Bitcoin blockchains (Hangzhou Huatai Yimei Culture Media Co. Ltd. vs. Shenzen Daotong Technology Development Co., Ltd.). The Hangzhou Internet Court considered that such records were reliable evidence and were sufficient to be legally recognized. In September 2018, the Chinese Supreme Court ruled that all Internet Courts in the country should recognize the legality of evidence registered in blockchain, provided that the registration process occurred on a regular basis.

The record of intellectual works is just one example of the possibilities of applying blockchain on law. Strictly speaking, such technology has the potential to be applied in practically all areas of law, although it remains to be known what will be the reaction of the Brazilian judiciary system regarding its admissibility in court.

In our view, all law professionals, as well as companies and individuals, should already consider the use of blockchain for the protection of their works, especially when the existing traditional ways do not fit the needs of the market, whether due to expensiveness, slowness or excessive bureaucracy.

By Felipe Dannemann Lundgren, partner and lawyer at Dannemann Siemsen, and Yannick Schweizer, lawyer at Dannemann Siemsen - 14/03/2019
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Danneman Siemsen

Recognised as leaders in Intellectual Property in Latin America, we are a team of experts who has been dedicated to defending industrial and intellectual property since 1900. We operate throughout the world, encompassing first-rate civil and criminal advocacy, covering diverse areas of Law and all segments of industry. We are partners of large national and international companies.

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