Blockstream's Defensive Patent Strategy



Patent Pledge

Our goal at Blockstream is to accelerate technological innovation in Bitcoin, building infrastructure and innovative tools to support its secure, trustless, decentralized nature. We believe that open innovation is necessary for the long-term success of Bitcoin, and because of this we intend for all of the technology developed at Blockstream to be freely available for the benefit of the Bitcoin community and the world. But we operate in an environment where good intentions are not enough, and must be backed by mechanisms that ensure those intentions are carried out.

Software patents have too often been used as a means for stifling innovation, rather than encouraging it. In an ideal world, we would refuse to patent the software we invent. But this strategy would place the entire Bitcoin community at risk. We share our work in public where it can be developed, discussed, and tested with the Bitcoin community. But working in the open makes it easy for short-term opportunists to figure out what we're working on and create patent landmines to obstruct progress. Even when prior art exists that could challenge the validity of issued patents, such challenges are both difficult and expensive to mount, with often unpredictable results, and cannot be relied on as a solution. This leaves us with two choices: to work in secret, or to patent as a defensive strategy.

We believe, then, that the way to ensure that our technology remains most usable is to obtain patents ourselves and make binding promises for their use. We look forward to a legislative environment where this is not needed: our strategy is not a substitute for attempts to reform or eliminate software patents, or to invalidate issued patents, including our own. But until we can ensure that no one can own exclusive rights to the technologies surrounding Bitcoin, we want to ensure that they remain available to the community.

A core principle of ours is that the only system to trust is one that does not require you to trust it. Our goal is to use the mechanisms available in the law to make this possible.

To that end, we make these promises:

Blockstream offers all of its patents and patent applications under the Defensive Patent License, version 1.1. That means the technology covered by Blockstream's patents is freely available for use without having to pay a licensing fee or risk litigation. We encourage others to join us in adopting it and making their patents freely available to anyone else who commits to its goals.

Blockstream will not enforce any of the patents on any invention involving software it owns now or in the future except for defensive purposes, as defined below. Blockstream intends this promise to be irrevocable and binding to the fullest extent possible, on itself and entities it controls (including any affiliates and/or subsidiaries) and on any entity that acquires an interest in these patents in the future. "Blockstream" also includes any corporation, partnership, or other entity in which more than 50% of the total voting power is owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, now or in the future, by Blockstream, during the time such ownership or control exists.

For the purposes of this pledge, enforcement for "defensive purposes" is an assertion of Patent Rights against a party who files, maintains, threatens, or voluntarily participates in any claim for patent infringement against a) Blockstream (including cross-claims and counterclaims), or b) any other party based upon that party's use or distribution of technologies claimed in Blockstream patents or invented by Blockstream.

This pledge only covers patents and patent applications involving software that Blockstream owns now or will own in the future. It excludes Blockstream patents on hardware inventions not including software; should there be any such excluded patents, they will be listed at the bottom of this page. This pledge does not cover patents owned by third parties. Blockstream does not and cannot promise that the technologies covered in its patents do not infringe upon the intellectual property rights (including patent, copyright, and/or trademark rights) of any third party. Blockstream makes no representations and disclaims any and all warranties as to the validity of Blockstream's patents. In addition, Blockstream makes no representations and disclaims any and all warranties as to or their own non-infringement of third-party intellectual property rights arising from the use or distribution of technologies described and claimed in Blockstream's patents and patent applications.

While we intend for this pledge to be a binding statement, we may still enter into license agreements under individually negotiated terms for those who wish to use Blockstream technology but cannot or do not wish to rely on this pledge alone.

Version 1.1, published 24 April 2017. This adds section markings "a)" and "b)" to the definition of "defensive purposes" to avoid a potential misreading of the text. No other changes were made from version 1.0, published 19 July 2016. This text is © 2016 Blockstream and is made available under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. For more information on this pledge, please see the accompanying FAQ.