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Nick Johnson of ENS calls for open licensing, while Matthew Gould of Unstoppable Domains emphasizes collaboration and discussion.

Nick Johnson of Ethereum Name Service and Matthew Gould of Unstoppable Domains engaged in a heated debate over the patenting of blockchain domain names.

In his “Open Letter RE: Blockchain Domain Name Patents,” Johnson criticized Unstoppable Domains for patenting blockchain domain resolutions, a move he sees as contrary to the principles of open innovation.

The debate underscores the ongoing debate in the web3 community about the balance between protecting innovations and fostering open source development, especially for infrastructure-level protocols.

Crypto Domain Patent

ENS, a pioneer in the blockchain naming space since 2017, has refrained from patenting its innovations, whereas Unstoppable Domains was granted patent number US11558344, Resolving Blockchain Domains, in January.

“This patent is based entirely on innovations that ENS developed and contains no novel innovations of its own,” Johnson wrote on the X platform.

Legal Backing

Johnson’s letter demanded legal backing to Unstoppable Domains’ promise to pledge their first patent to the Web3 Domain Alliance, a group founded by Unstoppable Domains.

He argued that press releases are not legally binding and that a more concrete, unconditional, and irrevocable patent pledge is necessary to ensure open innovation in web3 naming.

Threat to Open UD Patents

Without a commitment from UD, “ENS would be forced to rely on its first-to-market status to open UD’s patents to everyone,” Johnson wrote in the letter he shared on X via a screenshot.

In response, Gould highlighted Unstoppable Domains’ commitment to advancing web3 naming for all systems and emphasized the importance of standards bodies in this evolution, drawing a parallel to ICANN’s role in DNS. Gould said the way forward is through increased collaboration and discussion, given the industry’s rapidly changing landscape.

Johnson countered, proposing that Unstoppable Domains license their patent openly to anyone, not just to ENS. He cited patent non-aggression pacts used by companies like IBM as precedents.

Web3 Domain Alliance

Gould, however, pointed out the broader scope of the issue, noting that today’s focus on Unstoppable Domains could shift to patents or trademarks from companies in other regions tomorrow.

Gould reiterated the need for a proactive discussion forum, inviting ENS to join the Web3 Domain Alliance as a founding charter member.

The exchange ended with Gould keeping the door open for ENS’s involvement in the Alliance.


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