EUIPO (the European Union Intellectual Property Office) has announced its 2018 ‘Blockathon Challenge’. This will take place in Brussels from 22nd to 25th June.
EUIPO is a decentralised agency of the EU. Based in Alicante (Spain) it manages the registration of European Union trade marks and the registered community design. These provide intellectual property (IP) protection across the 28 EU member states. Since 2012 EUIPO manages the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights.
Executive Director (of EUIPO) António Campinos said: “The EUIPO is determined to explore the potential of blockchain to interconnect systems and ensure security and immutability of shared data in order to add trust to our legitimate ecosystem for the benefits of citizens, enforcers and companies alike. We believe a strong networked alliance can be built to secure logistics, ensure authenticity of goods, protect consumers and combat criminal and illegal activities.”
The European Union claims to be rich in intellectual resources. Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship are supposed to be the source of growth. Intellectual property rights (IPR) intensive industries contribute over 40% to the EU’s GDP. Directly or indirectly IPR supports 38% of jobs.
Yet infringements of intellectual property – such as counterfeiting and piracy – significantly hurt EU growth. EUIPO estimates the cost to:
- legitimate businesses as being around Euros 90B billion
- employment being around 800 000 jobs every year.
As EUIPO says, there is often consumer confusion about whether a product is authentic or not.
In 2017, 10% of EU consumers, or around 43 million citizens, may have found themselves tricked into buying a fake product instead of a genuine one. This figure is equivalent to the combined populations of Belgium, Bulgaria, Ireland, Greece and Portugal.
The blockchain/blockathon possibilities
Numerous technologies, procedures and tools already contribute to the fight against counterfeiting by verifying the authenticity of products and supply chain controls. Methods include:
- track-and-trace systems
- radio-frequency identification (RFID)
- customs controls
- specialised databases, such as the EUIPO’s Enforcement Database.
These systems, however, are dispersed and often work in silos without cross-silo integration or connection. Criminal networks exploit such disorganisation to their advantage.
The EUIPO, through the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights and in partnership with the European Commission, now plans the first ever EU Blockathon. This aims to:
- gather together the best coders and creative minds to unlock the potential of blockchain
- co-create an integrated solution to combat counterfeiting.
EUIPO is inviting (see www.blockathon.eu) teams of coders, blockchain experts and stakeholders to join the challenge and compete for a Euro 100K prize. The stated objective is to “make the world a safer and better place by giving enforcement authorities the tools to rapidly identify fakes and criminal activity, by helping legitimate companies to protect their business assets and by providing the tools for consumers to make informed, genuine, choices.”
What does this mean
IP theft is a global phenomenon. It affects products across almost all industries, from food to drugs to luxury goods. As organisations like EUIPO and Transparency International say, corruption is not a victimless crime. Just think of all those jobs that might have been…
Enterprise Times has criticised the EU in the past for its timid involvement with blockchain. Here is an example of the opposite, an EU agency taking a proactive initiative.
Whether this specific blockathon produces any worthwhile results almost does not matter. Posing the questions and searching for creative solutions will occur ET hopes that enterprise participation in search of EUIPO’s Euros 100K prize will be strong.