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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Unstoppable Domains and ENS Clash Over Blockchain Domain Patents

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Unstoppable Domains is currently facing criticism for allegedly appropriating the open-source advancements of the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) through the filing of a patent named “Resolving Blockchain Domain Names” in January this year.

In an open letter, Nick Johnson, the lead developer of ENS, expressed significant concerns about Unstoppable Domains’ patent applications related to blockchain domain names while highlighting ENS’ advocacy for open source, open standards, and governance.

Open Letter Sparks Debate on Patent

At the center of the debate is Unstoppable Domains’s first patent, US11558344, granted in January, which, according to Johnson, is based entirely on innovations developed by ENS. The letter claims that the patent lacks original innovations and questions the irony of supporting open innovation while pursuing patents mirroring ENS’s work.

The open letter also highlighted Unstoppable Domains’ ongoing pursuit of additional patents, including one for reserving names similar to a “Sunrise Phase,” a concept well-established in the DNS world. Frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to communicate with Unstoppable Domains, the ENS developer stressed the importance of permissionless innovation and open standards in the Web3 ecosystem.

Regarding Unstoppable Domains’ pledge of its patents to the Web3 Domain Alliance, an industry group led by Unstoppable Domains, ENS expressed skepticism, noting that press releases lack legal binding. The letter urged UD to reinforce its commitment by making an unconditional and irrevocable patent pledge, aligning with the stated defensive purpose for acquiring patents.

The chief developer of ENS underscored the crucial nature of such a pledge for maintaining an open and innovative Web3 naming field. Additionally, ENS argued that a legally binding commitment would mitigate any potential chilling effect resulting from Unstoppable Domains’ ownership of patents allegedly derived entirely from ENS’ inventions.

Response

CEO of Unstoppable Domains – Matthew Gould – responded to the letter and noted that the focus on the Web3 domain platform could shift to patents or trademarks from companies in other regions.

He invited ENS to join the Web3 Domain Alliance as a founding charter member, fostering a proactive discussion forum.

Unstoppable Domains and ENS are the two most prominent Web3 domain providers in the space.

In July, Unstoppable Domains announced extending support for .eth domains, allowing users to make purchases directly through the official website.

Traditionally known for offering domain extensions like .crypto, .blockchain, .nft, etc., Unstoppable Domains expanded its services to include .eth domains, a space previously exclusive to purchases through the Ethereum Name Service (ENS).

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