This interview is part of our new Blockchain In The Legal Industry series, where we interview the world's leading thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between blockchain and the legal industry.
In this interview we speak with Eli Sheets, CEO and founder of IdeaBlock, to understand how his company is using blockchain and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind IdeaBlock? Why and how did you begin?
ES: After spending over a decade in the world of intellectual property (IP) law as a patent examiner, law student, and attorney in Washington, D.C., I realized that much of the work performed by traditional intellectual property systems–such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)–was to make an official determination as to who first conjured up an idea. Establishing proof of time in a reliable and unquestionable way is something that individuals and businesses have struggled with for decades in the IP context. Tech companies have relied on lab notebooks, internal emails, electronic filesystems, and ink date stamps on documents to prove when an idea was created. Over the years, we have come to find that most judges are extremely wary of these traditional forms of “internal date stamping” to prove that the company had an idea at a certain time or that it disclosed the idea publicly. These legacy forms of time-dating, which would have otherwise saved companies millions of dollars in legal fees and IP infringement damages during subsequent IP litigation, are more often than not thrown out of a lawsuit because judges simply cannot trust their authenticity: there was no way for a company to prove that they didn’t fabricate a lab notebook or email printout on the eve of trial. I realized, however, that blockchain technology could completely change this paradigm and place the power of proof in the hands of IP producers themselves. So I started IdeaBlock!
2. Please describe your use case and how IdeaBlock uses blockchain:
ES: IdeaBlock is a suite of blockchain-powered software tools that provides our users with the ability to anchor a cryptographic representation of any idea or creative work to immutable public blockchains, proving that they were in possession of the idea at the time of upload. This functionality helps our clients protect their trade secrets against third-party patent suits and assists in both the acquisition and protection of trademarks and copyrightable material. In addition, IdeaBlock can publish the uploaded idea to a publicly accessible database, providing defensive protection against any later-filed third-party patents. Furthermore, because that subscribers are incentivized to upload their ideas as early as possible, the body of uploaded data provides a real-time snapshot of the state of any art, and can be analyzed and leveraged to provide key insights into technology- and market-specific trends for subscribers that provide market prediction and consulting services.
3. Could you share a customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
ES: We have several customers in the software industry who have leveraged IdeaBlock tools to make their code creation process immutable and to provide codebase redundancy in real time. Specifically, these clients utilize one of our command-line tools, IdeaBlock Commit, to automatically anchor all of the code in any Git repository to the Bitcoin and Litecoin blockchains any time an employee commits code–without requiring any additional commands or configuration after it has been turned on for a particular project repository. This provides bulletproof code backup, validated not by GitHub or Atlassian, but by two vast worldwide networks of computers–Bitcoin and Litecoin (and more to come)–in a way that obfuscates the contents of the underlying idea data from the network that is validating its existence.
4. What other blockchain use cases in the legal industry are you excited about?
ES: I am a fan of OpenLaw and other projects that are working on simplifying and streamlining legal processes and allowing companies to create legal contracts quickly, easily, and reliably, cutting legal costs along the way. I am also excited about the use of blockchain in real estate law to assist with closing paperwork and title issues.
5. Where will IdeaBlock be in 5 years?
ES: IdeaBlock will be an essential tool for enterprise tech company legal departments, startups, and individual inventors. Defensive protection of IP through IdeaBlock will be a necessary complement to traditional forms of offensive IP protection.