When most of us are talking about blockchain technology, what we are really thinking of is Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, not IP protection. But IP protection is just one of the numerous applications of blockchain in the corporate world. One of the most fascinating use cases of digital IP protection is it’s massive utility to law firms and lawyers, especially to those who deal with large amounts of IP.
Below, I am writing about why this need is a crucial one especially for lawyers, and introducing Bernstein, a German web-based software which has recently entered the Indian market and is available for commercial use by lawyers and law firms. In my opinion, Bernstein is a software that changes a lot for IP focused law firms and lawyers, and below I give some of my reasons for thinking so:
What is Bernstein?
Bernstein is a web application that allows the user to register online any digital asset of any size and any format. Online registration of digital assets enables proof of existence, ownership, and documents it’s development over time.
By providing technology that notarizes data, ensures privacy, and applies complex and unique cryptographic layers to users’ information and assets, Bernstein leverages blockchain and timestamping technologies to create a detailed digital record of user creations.
For law firms, in real and practical terms, these are some of the applications for such a software:
Bernstein’s application in law firms
Client IP protection
As lawyers, our job is to act in the best interest of our clients. For those of us in IP practice, this means we should be advising our clients on how best to protect the assets that constitute their livelihoods. Rather than helping a distressed client to prove their IP once it is under threat, we should be helping them to protect it from the very moment it comes into existence.
Bernstein enables users to upload their projects – whether research, designs, content, software, artworks, or something else entirely – and generate a completely unique and traceable certificate. The certificate generated by the Software is of course unique to that asset, and is time-stamped under European and Chinese standards. In doing so, Bernstein creates a digital trail that can be used to prove ownership, enforce rights, and even ensure confidentiality.
Because the blockchain certificate that is generated can be presented as evidence in courts around the world, Bernstein represents one of the strongest forms of international IP protection available today.
Contracts are, of course, essential to the work of law firms. Contracts, as a subject matter, is perhaps the most common and overlapping subject in all areas of practice. For commercial lawyers who often draft, vet, or monitor performance of contracts, or deal with contracts in other ways, Bernstein has a critical application.
(a) Information referencing
In the past, it has been difficult to refer to certain types of information in contracts. Either there is too much information to include (for example, when referencing a prior agreement) or the referenced information changes so often (for example, purchase orders) that the present contract would require continual revision, leading to significant weakness in the contract. Bernstein helps to overcome this by giving such information a ‘cryptographic fingerprint’ that can readily be referenced in the contract, thereby removing the ambiguity about which information source (or which version of it) is to be used.
To license a technology effectively, one has to be able to define precisely what that technology is. This is more difficult than it sounds, and it often leads to considerable confusion, arguments, and disputes down the line. Trade secrets cannot be registered, so accordingly there is no reliable way to identify them. Blockchain certificates, however, fill that gap and enable users to refer to a specific and undeniable ‘single source of truth’ that constitutes the subject matter of the license.
(c) Confidential information
Managing confidential information can be difficult at the best of times, but nowhere is this more difficult than with disgruntled former employees that could potentially use confidential information for nefarious purposes. Recent court judgments have demonstrated that overly broad confidentiality clauses are not enforceable, and as such there has to be a solution for tracking the confidential information that the company wants to protect. Industry secrets, business plans, and other critical documentation can be grouped and then assigned a blockchain certificate that can, in turn, be used as a single reference point for all secret materials. This is as important for the daily functioning of law firms themselves as it is for their clients.
More on Bernstein and its use in legal practice
If you are interested in learning more about Bernstein – whether it’s right for you, how it works, how you actually use it, or something else – you can (1) check out the verified Bernstein listing on the Legal Tech Index, (2) visit their website, or (3) send me a message.