The Litecoin Association are in the process of wrestling the trademark for the Litecoin name in the European Union from an individual who attempted to trademark the name. While it appears that they likely will win their opposition, the case serves as a warning for all coin developers and communities: register your cryptocurrency’s name.
The relatively large community that supports Litecoin turned out to be the cryptocurrency’s biggest asset, as it leveraged that group to find free legal advice in pursuing the trademark to the Litecoin team.
But without that free legal help, Litecoin Association board member Andrew Vegetabile estimated that it would have taken several thousand Euros to fight the case otherwise. That is several thousand dollars that most coin communities would be better served spending on development or advertising.
Most alts are struggling to remain relevant, there are a lot of coins on their virtual death beds as it is. For them, an expensive legal battle could be the fatal blow. That said, they are likely to win, assuming they can get the funds to fight it.
“Litecoin is very likely not suitable for trademark per Art 7 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 207/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the EU trademark.” said Alexandra Damsker, a US attorney with experience in EU law.
The Litecoin Association’s approach does not hinge on the idea that a cryptocurrency and its name, should be off limits to trademarks. That would make the most sense from a logical perspective. After all, you can’t have an effective patent on the word “internet” which, like Litecoin and other Cryptocurrencies, is also a shared technology open for anyone to use. But Litecoin is also far less known than the Internet, and that approach seems like it would have been less effective because most judges have not yet grasped the concept of what “cryptocurrencies” are. Vegetabile explained their tactics
“We [initially] wanted to show the courts that no one owned Litecoin, and they to some extent agreed with us by reopening the case, but in order to increase our chances, we went ahead and protected ourselves by having the [Inventor] of Litecoin, Charlie Lee, transfer the rights of Litecoin to the Litecoin Association.
The plan going forward is that we win this opposition, then apply for a trademark ourselves. After receiving one, we will be releasing it to the public free of use for any products and services. Because the Litecoin Association truly believes that no one owns Litecoin, it belongs to everyone.”
Instead, the Litecoin association is going with something a little easier to explain to judges: We used it first. In addition, having Charlie Lee, the creator of Litecoin, transfer his claim to the Litecoin trademark to the Litecoin association, they seemingly have locked it up on all sides.
The filer of the Litecoin trademark Is a man named Kai Anton, according to the EU’s patent and trademark database. He has yet to respond to any queries from the Litecoin Association, according to Vegetabile. It is unclear if he will defend his right to the Litecoin trademark.
Every legal mind I have talked to indicated that they believe the Litecoin association’s dispute of the Litecoin trademark will be successful. And this case will potentially be beneficial for any other cryptocurrencies that run into trademark trolls snapping up their names. Communities could point to this case as evidence that their case should be considered as well.
The issue, again, becomes money. There isn’t a lot of it going around, at least not for coins that have already launched and don’t have the benefit of running a highly hyped ICO. For these coins, it may be beneficial to register their names in major markets now, rather than waiting for it to become a problem.
Coins could ignore any trademark trolls and continue on like the trademark never happened and that might work for a while, but the longer a troll holds a trademark, the more difficult it will be to wrestle it from their hands.
With the downturn nearly all altcoins have been on recently, ignoring this problem will be at their community’s peril.