Alleged Appropriation of Ethereum Name Service Innovations Sparks Debate
Unstoppable Domains is under fire after being accused of appropriating the open-source advancements of the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) through the filing of a patent named “Resolving Blockchain Domain Names” in January of this year. The lead developer of ENS, Nick Johnson, expressed significant concerns about Unstoppable Domains’ patent applications related to blockchain domain names, highlighting ENS’ advocacy for open source, open standards, and governance.
Criticism from ENS Developer
In an open letter, Johnson raised significant concerns about Unstoppable Domains’ first patent, US11558344, granted in January, which he claims is entirely based on innovations developed by ENS. Johnson stated, “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 (source).
ENS expressed skepticism regarding Unstoppable Domains’ pledge of its patents to the Web3 Domain Alliance, an industry group led by Unstoppable Domains, emphasizing that press releases lack legal binding. ENS urged UD to reinforce its commitment by making an unconditional and irrevocable patent pledge, aligning with the stated defensive purpose for acquiring patents.
Johnson reiterated the crucial nature of such a pledge for maintaining an open and innovative Web3 naming field, arguing 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 from Unstoppable Domains
In response to the open letter, Unstoppable Domains CEO Matthew Gould noted that the focus on the Web3 domain platform could shift to patents or trademarks from companies in other regions. He also invited ENS to join the Web3 Domain Alliance as a founding charter member, fostering a proactive discussion forum.
Unstoppable Domains and ENS are two of the most prominent Web3 domain providers in the space. In a recent announcement, Unstoppable Domains extended support for .eth domains, allowing users to make purchases directly through the official website. Traditionally 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).
The allegations against Unstoppable Domains have sparked a debate within the Web3 community, raising questions about the ethical implications of patenting open-source innovations. As the situation continues to unfold, the industry awaits further developments and potential resolutions to this intellectual property dispute.
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