Ethereum Name Service decries Unstoppable Domains patent as a threat to open-source ethos

Nick Johnson, the lead developer of Ethereum Name Service (ENS), accused Unstoppable Domains of patenting its open-source innovation regarding “Resolving Blockchain Domain” in a Nov. 16 open letter posted on social media platform X (formerly Twitter).

Johnson asserted that Unstoppable Domains’ patent was solely based on ENS-developed innovations without any unique contributions from the rival firm.

Unstoppable Domains ‘anti-open innovation’ activities

Johnson further explained how Unstoppable Domains’ patenting efforts contradict the principles of open innovation, citing how the rival firm made a recent “application for reserving names akin to a ‘Sunrise Phase’ that has been common to the Domain Name Service (DNS) world for many years.”

On the other hand, ENS has refrained from patenting its innovations despite being a leader in the space, saying its works are “under open-source licenses” and “publicly available for anyone to implement.”

Johnson emphasized the need for Unstoppable Domains to commit legally to donating its first patent under an “unconditional and irrevocable patent pledge,” saying, “Press releases are not legally binding.” Failure to do this, Johnson warned that “ENS Labs stands ready to challenge this patent, which we believe is entirely derivative of our inventions; a position we are able and willing to demonstrate.”

He concluded that the letter was necessary to “emphasize the importance of permissionless innovation and open standards in the web3 ecosystem and to request [Unstoppable Domains] cooperation in ensuring web3 naming continues to be a place for innovation.”

Unstoppable Domains responds

In response, Matthew Gould, the founder of Unstoppable Domains, highlighted his firm’s commitment to driving advancements in web3 naming standards. He emphasized the critical role of collaborative efforts and discussions in navigating the industry’s evolving landscape.

Meanwhile, Johnson proposed that Unstoppable Domains should extend the openness of their patent licensing beyond ENS, citing models such as patent non-aggression pacts used by companies like IBM.

However, Gould broadened the scope of the discussion, pointing out the broader industry implications, noting that the focus on Unstoppable Domains could easily shift to patents or trademarks from companies in different regions later.

Gould reiterated the necessity for a proactive forum for discussion, inviting ENS to join the Web3 Domain Alliance to foster an environment conducive to open dialogue and collaboration in shaping the future of web3 naming standards.

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