Bitcoin Q&A: Proprietary editable blockchains & patent trolls


[AUDIENCE] A couple days ago, I read an article about
some company that invented an edible blockchain.
And I thought, ‘Wow, finally. We have solved
world hunger. An edible blockchain.’ [Laughter]
Then I read it again, and it actually
said “editable,” so I just face-palmed.
The question is, how do we handle random suits
patenting stuff in the space, hindering innovation?
[Will it be a problem] even with
these things being open source?
[ANDREAS] I am not really worried about patents.
Patents really only affect the commercial companies…
in the space who are interested in
[building] proprietary technology.
Quite honestly, if they are not fighting against
patents or organizing to create patent pools,
which I have suggested and participated in,
then they will pay the price by spending…
a lot of their time in litigation over stupid patents
over things that are common and generic,
algorithms or systems that
were invented by other people.
We will see these fights break out. They will
not affect the most important [component],
which is the broadly available, volunteer based,
open-source software that we really care about.
You can’t stop that with patents. They will slow down
the proprietary software companies who live in a world..
they built [only for themselves], and did not do
enough to fight these parasitic patent companies.
[They] will see that problem.
As for patenting an editable blockchain,
I have expressed my confusion as to…
why someone would miss reversibility of
contractual agreements between parties.
[We already have mechanisms] that may allow for
refunds in multi-sig, to provide consumer protection.
The irreversibility is not a bug, it is one of
the most useful features of this system.
It encourages autonomy instead of authority.
If you have an authority who can edit the blockchain…
“Editable blockchain” is nice. It is in the passive voice.
They have patented a system in which
they [are the editors] of the blockchain.
It is important to understand who
the subject in that sentence is.
An editable blockchain is just a
blockchain which can be edited.
There is still the question of: by whom,
and under what circumstances is it edited?
That is the most important question.
Is it a blockchain that can be edited by
a committee or institutional authority?
A hierarchy? A government agency?
Whatever. That is not a useful construct.
We already have those. I refer you to
Microsoft SQL databases with digital signatures.
We already have institutional money,
authoritarian systems of control and censorship.
[With Bitcoin we will have] non-reversible systems
of freedom, autonomy, and censorship resistance.
The ability for individuals to enter into
contracts encoded in a Bitcoin script,
inviolable and guaranteed to
perform exactly as expected.
At least in the Bitcoin system, with its
constraints, that is a very strong promise.
That strong promise is not a bug.
It is one of the most interesting features.
I expect the next patent they will file is for the open-air
convertible submarine, with a drop-down soft top.
Other things like that which are really [stupid].
Maybe the microwave oven without a door,
so you can be tanned while you cook a burrito.
These are things that they can patent.
But patenting something doesn’t mean it is useful,
novel, or interesting. It just means that you need…
to pay a consultant to come up with some nonsense,
and then pay a lawyer to put that
nonsense in the permanent record,
so that you may be forever embarrassed
by [your creation]. [Laughter] [Applause]

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