Ethereum Name Service (ENS) founder and chief developer Nick Johnson has taken a strong stand against blockchain domains provider Unstoppable Domains regarding patent issue. Recently, Unstoppable Domains obtained US11558344, its first patent, for a blockchain-based domain assignment system. This patent, which was submitted in 2021 to the USPTO, is at the epicenter of a developing legal dispute among the blockchain ecosystem.
ENS Alleges That Patent Violates Its Innovations
Johnson claims that all of the innovations of ENS Labs are the basis for the patent granted to Unstoppable Domains. He points out that, prior to the filing of this patent, ENS, a distributed and open naming system based on the Ethereum blockchain, has already mapped human-readable names to machine-readable identifiers. Johnson highlights in an open letter that all ENS work is done so under open-source licenses, and that the public can use the standards.
Furthermore, Johnson’s letter posted on social media makes it clear that ENS Labs is ready to file a lawsuit in the event that Unstoppable Domains does not withdraw its patent. He makes the argument that the patented technology must be innovative and that it provides no new developments beyond what ENS has already created.
One of the identified inventors from Unstoppable Domains, Matthew Gould, invited people to join the Web3 Domain Alliance in reaction to these claims. This action has drawn scrutiny, though. Executive director of Ethereum Classic Cooperative Bob Summerwill opposed the alliance requirement for the patent, saying it violates the open-source philosophy.
Furthermore, Johnson disputes the concept of Unstoppable Domains’ patent commitment, contending that news announcements lack legal force. He exhorts the business to support its public relations pledges with real legal action, particularly with an unqualified and irreversible patent pledge. This position highlights the increasing conflict in the blockchain domain business between proprietary claims and open-source ideals.
The disagreement between Unstoppable Domains and ENS highlights how complicated patent law is in the blockchain industry. As this dispute plays out, both sides are holding their ground, and the blockchain community is keeping a careful eye on it in case it becomes a precedent for other intellectual property disputes in the future.