To understand the IPCHAIN Database proposition, it is worth quickly re-covering the two core, fundamental features of blockchain technology:
Data immutability: When data is committed to the blockchain with timestamp T, for all practical purposes it remains there and neither the data nor T can be modified.
Process Transparency: How we interact with the blockchain is defined by its protocol. No single participant can coerce the network into behaving in any other way, at least not without agreement from the majority. Thus network behaviour is deterministic and transparent.
In other words, the blockchain now makes it a trivial exercise to commit data into public record and guarantee its integrity.
It is not difficult to gauge the implications of this observation for institutions who are charged with the responsibility of managing Intellectual Property – the Blockchain appears to be a perfect fit for the industry.
Concept and White-Paper
Dominik Thor, an Austrian academic and entrepreneur, and founder of the IPCHAIN Database project, is now seeking to build a series of blockchain-based modules that accommodate the most common kinds of intellectual property in existence.
Aside from offering a streamlined approach to documenting patents, copyrights and other intellectual property types, the project’s other main focus is to offer ” … examiners, patent offices, inventors, researchers, librarians, attorneys, and R&D and university personnel … a powerful semantic search and analysis module designed to meet court standards of proof as well as direct technical interfaces to give examiners and attorneys the ability to implement their own meta-search systems.”
Some patent filings will require a registration involving reams of documents. The Blockchain, on the other hand, is not an appropriate mechanism for storing masses of data.
The white-paper, therefore, proposes an off-chain storage mechanism (specifically an IPFS database) where a cryptographic hash signature of the database-stored contents will be committed to the blockchain for registration.
The approach allows original creators of ideas and/or content to assert original ownership without having to expose those ideas or content for public consumption – providing the kinds of assurances that will allow more than a few patent holders out there to attract seed financing.
At the same time, it also provides the ability for auditors to prove – or disprove – tampering with the original contents. In other words, the blockchain and crypto-graphic methods which complement it offer the ability now to protect against data tampering, data corruption or outright theft.
It would be something of a surprise if, in the near future, organisations handling Intellectual Property do not undertake a general, mass migration to blockchain-based solutions to manage their workflow.
The question for token participants here is whether the team behind IPCHAIN Database have the capacity to position themselves as a leading provider of such solutions.
That requires an in-depth competitor analysis – a good place to start here is page 16 of the white-paper – and also a look at the team’s ability to form the kinds of strategic partnerships that would help them to make inroads as an international brand.
The team has announced recently a series of partnerships: with WIPO Green (the environmental arm of the World Intellectual Property Organisation), the Dennemeyer Group (an IP Software House and the world’s largest IP law firm according to the white-paper) and the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA – which, it is claimed, represents the interests of over 10,000 leading European researchers).
The website platforms fourteen headline team members – eight of whom belong to the core team, the other six serving on the project’s advisory board. Every single member is provided with a corresponding LinkedIn profile which, from the handful we sampled, appear to be embedded in large and relevant networks.
There appears to be a healthy emphasis on transparency with the aforementioned CEO, Dominik Thor, making himself accessible both via email and a long series of Youtube posts that have been collated into a playlist, explaining in much more granular detail each aspect of the project – including its legal aspects.
Fifteen percent of the project’s budget is being set aside specifically for marketing. The headline team includes one dedicated marketer and, at this early stage in the project’s life cycle, is adopting a strong emphasis on its bounty program.
The bounty program places a focus specifically on referral programs, YT influencers and – interestingly – token incentives to those who advertise themselves as a follower of the project on the Telegram platform.
There also appears to be a range of strategies being employed by the team to encourage content creation to get its message out to the wider public – something whose importance many ICOs fail to grasp.
Tokenomics and RoadMap
Interestingly, tokens are minted on the fly as contributions are received. The project team has cited traditional frustrations with token sales resulting in prolonged waits – sometimes extending into months – before tokens are distributed.
Anyone contemplating participating in the token sale is urged to send through a small amount initially to test the contribution mechanism (tokens should appear automatically in contributor’s own wallet shortly after sending).
The project’s is hard-capped at $20 million dollars, 30% of tokens will be held in reserve with six-month staged vesting applied over a two year period – ordinarily a strong signal of commitment to the project from a team that expect to have the product launched by the end of the current calendar year (2018).
The token’s economics are not particularly complicated – the token itself will simply be required to gain access to the products and services that the platform will offer.
As stated, the general feeling among market analysts is that blockchain technologies make for a perfect fit for the Intellectual Property industry. The question appears then to be who will win the race to lead the market.
The IPCHAIN Database proposition appears to have emerged as a genuine contender in the field, having signed a string of partnerships that should give it some early competitor advantage.
With a technical implementation for the infrastructure that should be relatively straight-forward, it appears that the prospects for the success of this project – or indeed any other, similar project out there – will be its ability to form the kinds of strategic partnerships necessary to give it the visibility needed within both industry and academia to undergo the kind of growth to make a market leader.