This is an opinion piece drafted by a third party on behalf of Barclays Eagle Labs. Any opinions expressed are those of the third party and not those of Barclays.
Protecting IP is vital to a tech startup, says Everledger CEO Leanne Kemp.
Leanne Kemp is Founder and CEO of Everledger, a London-based startup that uses blockchain to securely track and record the provenance and ownership of high value items such as diamonds, artworks and fine wine. The technology involves a combination of hardware and software to create an immutable ledger of asset ownership. We talked to her about the importance of intellectual property (IP) in protecting the value of her business.
How did the idea of applying blockchain to make a record of assets come to you?
I’m a serial entrepreneur and I decided early on that I would purpose my life to bring transparency to the most opaque industries in the world, starting with diamonds. Each diamond is unique by their very nature and we’re able to capture a digital twin of each stone using advanced technology. When I started Everledger back in 2015, I combined a range of experiences that I've gained working over many different industries throughout my career. When I read Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper on blockchain, it was very clear to me that we could use this technology to develop solutions for our enterprise.
What kind of IP is involved in Everledger’s business?
Everledger has spent considerable time and effort in the development of software related to blockchain, the Internet of Things and other related technologies. We have filed patents covering aspects of our technology. We have filed trademarks globally in both English and Chinese language equivalents of “Everledger”, as well as domain names. We have work protected by copyright and also guard confidential information carefully. Throughout years of close collaboration with several industries, from diamonds to wine, to apparel and electric vehicle batteries, we have amassed deep knowledge about their inner workings and value chains – important knowledge that would be very difficult, or at least take many years, to replicate.
Why does your own IP have value?
We not only rely on our own IP registrations to protect our technology but our systems actively assist brand owners, our partners in the industry, to protect their products from counterfeits. IP is integral to the development and uniqueness of any product and we believe that our technology helps augment and verify many of the claims that brand owners make or would like to make about their products. With Everledger’s technology, companies can be transparent about where their product originated, their characteristics, and the chain of ownership, even after it leaves their stores. Re-commerce is one of the use cases enabled by Everledger, so that a consumer can sell on their asset to another consumer and prove it's the original.
Is protecting your IP a key concern?
Absolutely. We believe in taking strong action against those who seek to appropriate our intellectual property. We have been fortunate not to experience any major disputes to date, though it is always a risk. We are focused on ensuring that our technology is developing at a pace to ensure it remains cutting-edge – that means new IP is being created constantly and we have to ensure it is properly safeguarded.
How have you sought to protect the IP?
In addition to registering patents, trademarks and domain names we have comprehensive non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). Also, our IT systems are designed to protect our know-how, confidential information and software source code. We are also ISO27001-certified, which demonstrates our deepest commitment to information security. Only a fraction of the world’s companies have the protocols in place to achieve this certification and, as far as we know it, we are the first company in the blockchain space to have done so.
What would be your advice for other startups when it comes to protecting IP?
Ensure you take professional legal advice and register your trademarks and domains early on. Put in place internal systems to ensure that any registrable IP is treated appropriately and filings occur when they need to. At the end of the day, your legal protections must safeguard your business, eliminating potential risks and enabling you to focus on better servicing your customers and supporting your team.