Today, mobile payments company Square launched the Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance (COPA), a non-profit focused on keeping patents from becoming barriers to innovation in the space.
“Crypto organizations (or even governments) have filed for hundreds of patents on cryptocurrency technology and continue to do so in large numbers,” a Square representative explained in a statement shared with Bitcoin Magazine. “Locking up foundational cryptocurrency technologies in patents stifles innovation and adoption; and offensive use of patents by bad actors threatens the growth of cryptocurrency technologies.”
For instance, notorious Bitcoin fraudster Craig Wright has filed at least 1,000 patent applications.
COPA is open for anyone to join and aims to furnish members with an “open patent” strategy to better protect and foster innovation in the space (interested parties can learn more about joining here). It asks that members pledge to never use their own crypto technology patents against anyone except for defensive purposes, and that they pool all of their patents together to create a “shared patent library.”
“This collective shield of patents provides members access to each others’ patents to deter and defend against patent aggressors, thereby empowering every member, regardless of whether they individually own patents or not, with tools and leverage to defend themselves against patent aggressors,” per the statement from Square.
Square launched its Cash App service in 2013 and started offering BTC to users in 2019, an addition that has found remarkable success in the market. In Q1 of 2020, for instance, Cash App brought in $306 million of revenue from bitcoin, which surpassed its quarterly fiat-based revenue for the first time.
A few months before enabling bitcoin investing, Square launched its crypto-focused business division, Square Crypto, which has operated with a decidedly open-source mindset.
“[In] traditional companies you work as a team and focus on a project,” Square Crypto’s project manager, Steve Lee, told Bitcoin Magazine earlier this year. “In open source, that’s not common, per se. Each individual contributor is ever independent and usually anonymous. We decided that we wanted to work as a team.”
The commitment to open-source development and technologies like Bitcoin seems to be the driving force behind COPA as well. Square recognizes that the advancement of cryptocurrency will be a driving force in its growth, and that free and open collaboration is necessary to fuel that advancement.
“We strongly believe in the need for foundational crypto technology to be freely available to everyone rather than be locked in patents,” Kirupa Pushparaj, Square's head of IP and a member of the COPA founding team, told Bitcoin Magazine in an interview. “COPA goes to the very core of the open-source ethos — the coming together of the community to build, create, help crypto grow and succeed, and removing barriers to innovation.”