EU offers €100,000 prize for ‘blockathon’ event

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Several EU agencies are collaborating to host a ‘blockathon’ competition with a €100,000 prize. Developers from the European Union will be asked to explore and test the potential of the blockchain to protect intellectual property rights (IPR).

The European Commission, alongside the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and its subsidiary that investigates infringement of IPR law are hosting the event in Brussels in which competitors will aim to develop a blockchain-based “integrated solution to combat counterfeiting,” The successful winners will take home a prize of €100,000.

Flawed intellectual property law enforcement

The thinking behind the competition is this: the EU estimates that in 2017 around 43 million EU citizens (equivalent to almost the entire population of Spain) purchased counterfeit goods without knowing they were doing so. The EU also recognises that the current systems to prevent this are flawed, and as it said in its press release, “are scattered, often working in silos, and criminal networks use this to their advantage.”

Combat the counterfeiters

Now the EU and its agencies are looking to the blockchain to provide a system that combats the violation of IP and tracks the counterfeiters more effectively. The head of EUIPO, Antonio Campinos, in his statement said: “The EUIPO is determined to explore the potential of blockchain to interconnect systems and ensure security and immutability of 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 the authenticity of goods, protect consumers and combat criminal and illegal activities.”

Musical compositions are testing ground

Although it is less frequently discussed in the media, the case for using the blockchain to enforce intellectual property rights was established in the early days of blockchain development. One example of this is the use of digital certificates of ownership that can be stored on the blockchain. The American Society of Composers has already been testing its use to see if the blockchain can “track ownership of legally protected musical works”, which is one of those industries where copyright infringement and piracy are rife. Therefore, it is an excellent testing ground.

The blockathon and its prize money is yet another indicator that the EU is open-minded about the potential of the blockchain to solve a wide range of issues, which is good news for European developers.

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