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 Chris Wray, Co-founder of Mattereum, to understand how his company is using blockchain and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind Mattereum? Why and how did you begin?
CW: I first met Vinay Gupta in 2016 when he attended Arbitration Club – a London-based group of lawyers and arbitrators specialising in finance and technology disputes. He knew that commercial applications of blockchain technology at scale would require legal as well as technical expertise. Since co-founding Mattereum with Rob Knight in 2017, we have explored the space of interaction between legal and technical systems – the law of contract, international private law, arbitration, enforcement by national courts, distributed ledger technology, crypto currencies, smart contracts – and our focus has been how decentralization and automation can solve problems for real-world businesses.
2. Please describe your use case and how Mattereum uses blockchain:
CW: Mattereum’s first product is the Asset Passport, effectively a decentralized oracle describing physical property and other real-world assets. It enables automated processing of asset data and the use of smart contracts to manage transactions such as the sale of assets or licensing their use. Asset data in our Smart Property Register is commercially reliable because each certifier of data about an asset accepts legal liability for its accuracy – which is ultimately enforceable against the certifier’s collateral, insurance, and personal assets. If asset data is inaccurate, there is a clear, efficient path to receiving compensation for losses. The legal innovation is distributed liability for the accuracy of data about assets, including assets that are the subject of transactions such as sale or licensing, and decentralized mechanisms for resolving disputes. Blockchain technology ensures the transparency and integrity of the data and the network of agreements between the various parties.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
CW: One of our first customers is a dealer of high-value, antique musical instruments. The reliability of information about the provenance and current condition of these assets is essential to understanding and maintaining their value – but the expert input to form a comprehensive understanding is distributed across multiple sources, and the parties to transactions are distributed both geographically and even temporarily in the case of fractional ownership interests and changing syndicates of owners. This is a challenge for conventional, bilateral contracts of sale, but a nice demonstration of the utility of a Smart Property Register.
4. What other blockchain use cases in the legal industry are you excited about?
CW: I'm excited about projects such as Lexon and Legalese that are developing executable domain-specific languages for legal contracts, transforming lawyers – and perhaps even those in business whose expertise is more commercial than legal – into designers of programmatic, automated systems that complement (but will never replace!) the systems of obligations and procedures for resolving disputes that already exist between actors in commercial ecosystems.
5. Where will Mattereum be in five years?
CW: Billions of dollars' worth of real-world assets across diverse asset classes, from real estate through physical objects to intellectual property, are managed and transacted using smart contracts that rely on data in the Mattereum Register, backed by the legal liability of a distributed ecosystem of experts and commercial actors, and efficient, cost-effective enforcement.