Nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, are digital information of the possession of belongings. The asset sorts mostly related to NFTs are digital belongings, corresponding to art work like memes, GIFs, or gaming characters or properties. Property represented by NFTs, nonetheless, could also be digital, bodily, tangible or intangible. Examples of asset sorts which have been transferred or which have had their possession recorded using NFTs embody sports activities memorabilia, copyrights in music, art work and actual property. Mental property belongings and, particularly, the possession and switch of possession of patents may be recorded and transferred as NFTs.

Associated: Nonfungible tokens from a legal perspective

The possession of actual property could also be recorded in a registry of deeds, the possession of patents could also be recorded in the US Patent and Trademark Workplace (USPTO), and the possession of written works or music could also be recorded within the Library of Congress by means of the copyright system. As a result of related techniques for recording possession don’t exist for asset sorts corresponding to collectibles, video clips, memes, digital avatars or innovations which might be deemed ineligible for patentability as a consequence of being too summary, there’s a big profit to using NFTs. Nevertheless, even belongings which have present techniques for recording possession, such because the USPTO for patents, should still profit from utilizing NFTs to help potential patrons, sellers or licensees in understanding the proprietor and worth of a selected patent.

NFTs and blockchain know-how

The possession of NFTs are recorded on a blockchain, a distributed digital ledger that gives for immutable information of transactions and for transfers of possession of belongings by way of software program code generally known as sensible contracts. Blockchain know-how is finest generally known as the know-how for recording transactions involving cryptocurrencies, corresponding to Bitcoin (BTC).

Associated: How the NFT market leveraged blockchain tech for explosive growth

The recording of NFTs on a blockchain supplies a number of advantages. On a blockchain, data corresponding to NFTs is recorded in a collection of blocks of information of a sure measurement, relying on the blockchain implementation. When the quantity of data to be recorded is ample to satisfy the block measurement requirement of the blockchain, a brand new knowledge block is created and appended to the top of the present chain of blocks within the blockchain. The brand new knowledge block features a cryptographic code, known as a cryptographic hash, generated from a mix of information related to the knowledge within the new block and the cryptographic hash of the previous block. This renders the knowledge within the blocks of a blockchain safe. If a malicious occasion have been to aim to change data in a block of a blockchain — for instance, an possession file included in an NFT — this is able to lead to a change to the cryptographic hash of the related block. This variation would lead to mismatches or adjustments to the cryptographic hashes within the subsequent knowledge blocks, offering a sign of the unauthorized change to the recorded data.

Additional, the information blocks in a blockchain, collectively known as the blockchain ledger, will not be recorded in a centralized location. Relatively, the blockchain ledger is recorded in a number of completely different pc techniques, usually of customers who’ve carried out a transaction by way of the blockchain or who created a number of new blocks on the chain. The dearth of a single centralized location for the blockchain ledger additional will increase the safety of the knowledge recorded on the blockchain. A malicious occasion couldn’t hack a single pc system to change the information in a blockchain as a result of the ledger on that single pc system would then not match the ledgers recorded on different pc techniques within the community. If there was a sign of a change in data beforehand recorded on the blockchain — for instance, as a consequence of a change in a cryptographic hash of a number of blocks — the ledgers of a number of or the entire completely different techniques during which the ledger was recorded might be in comparison with decide which system had been compromised. Thus, recording possession, assignments, and prior gross sales or licenses of belongings, corresponding to patents, as NFTs on a blockchain would profit potential patrons, sellers and potential licensees by offering an unalterable public file.

Patents and NFTs

At present, there aren’t any necessities for recording assignments or gross sales of patents with the US Patent and Trademark Workplace, so it’s usually troublesome to know the proprietor of a patent. Additionally it is troublesome to judge the worth of a patent as a result of the phrases of gross sales or licenses of patents are not often made public. If a patent was bought or licensed by way of NFTs, a file of the sale and present proprietor or licensee of the patent can be immediately obtainable to the general public. To additional profit potential patrons, sellers or licensees, the gross sales or licensing of patents by way of an NFT might be automated by means of sensible contracts.

The primary NFT was created in Might 2014, however NFTs didn’t acquire a lot public consideration till 2017 when Larva Labs released a project dubbed CryptoPunks for the commerce of cartoon characters on the Ethereum blockchain and Dapper Labs launched the CryptoKitties gaming project, which allowed gamers to buy, commerce and “breed” digital cats.

The market related to the gross sales of NFTs grew considerably in 2021, with an estimated gross sales worth of greater than $250 million. Notable NFT gross sales embody: an algorithm-generated pixel artwork picture of an alien from the CryptoPunks project in March 2021 for $7.57 million; Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s first-ever tweet from 2006 in March 2021 for $2.9 million; and lots of extra. In one of many highest-priced NFT gross sales so far, the public sale home Christie’s bought a digital art work, “Everydays: The First 500 Days,” by the digital artist Mike Winkelman, also known as Beeple, for $69.3 million in March 2021. NFTs could now be created and bought on digital public sale websites or by conventional auctioneers, corresponding to Christie’s.

Creating an NFT-based market for asset sorts, corresponding to patents, will take time and would require patentees to undertake a brand new paradigm with respect to recording patent possession, transfers and licensing. A variety of preliminary work can be required to create the digital representations of possession of present patents as NFTs. Difficulties could come up if transfers or licenses have been made however not recorded on the blockchain, thus creating conflicting information of possession; nonetheless, work on such a market has begun. For example, IBM has introduced plans to work with the patent market IPwe to create a digital market to file and supply for the switch of possession of patents by way of NFTs. True Return Methods LLC has begun the primary public sale for a patent within the type of an NFT, appropriately for a patent directed to blockchain know-how.

This text doesn’t comprise funding recommendation or suggestions. Each funding and buying and selling transfer includes threat, and readers ought to conduct their very own analysis when making a call.

The views, ideas and opinions expressed listed here are the writer’s alone and don’t essentially mirror or characterize the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Greg Gerstenzang is a companion at Boston mental property legislation agency Lando & Anastasi LLP. Greg works with purchasers of all sizes to leverage their mental belongings by means of strategic patent portfolio improvement and administration primarily within the chemical and materials sciences, pc know-how and software program, client merchandise, electronics, and mechanical and industrial engineering industries. He prosecutes patent functions domestically and overseas in a variety of applied sciences from water remedy to stable state physics. Greg’s mental property legislation apply focuses on patents, post-grant overview course of and strategic counseling. Greg is an lively member of the MIT Membership of Boston, the Cornell Membership of Boston, the Boston Bar Affiliation and the Boston Patent Regulation Affiliation.