Nick Johnson, the founder of Ethereum Name Service (ENS), has raised serious concerns regarding Unstoppable Domains’ patent filings related to blockchain domain names.
In an open letter addressed to Unstoppable Domains, Johnson accused the company of appropriating ENS’ open source developments through these patent applications.
An Open Letter RE: Blockchain Domain Name Patents
Since its founding in 2017, ENS has been a consistent and outspoken advocate of open source, open standards, and the importance of governing the global namespace as a public good.
— nick.eth (@nicksdjohnson) November 16, 2023
“All of our work is licensed under open-source licenses, and all our standards are publicly available for anyone to implement,” Johnson wrote.
“As a result of our commitment to these values, we have not pursued patents on our work. By contrast, Unstoppable Domains has begun doing so, despite stating it supports open innovation.”
One specific patent, numbered US11558344 and titled “Resolving Blockchain Domains,” was granted to Unstoppable Domains earlier this year.
Johnson said that this patent is entirely based on innovations developed by ENS and does not introduce any novel concepts.
He noted that Unstoppable Domains has continued to pursue additional patents, including an application for reserving names similar to the “Sunrise Phase” commonly used in the DNS world for years.
Unstoppable Domains Pledged its Patent Through Press Release
Unstoppable Domains has attempted to address the concerns by issuing a press release in which it pledges its first patent to the Web3 Domain Alliance, an industry group founded and managed by Unstoppable Domains.
However, Johnson emphasized that press releases do not hold legal weight, and their organization cannot rely on nonbinding pledges when it comes to critical aspects of their operations.
“It’s impossible for any organisation to rely on such a nonbinding pledge when it concerns core aspects of its business operations,” he said.
“We are thus requesting that Unstoppable Domains put legal weight behind its PR commitment, with an unconditional and irrevocable patent pledge.”
Johnson said if Unstoppable Domains fails to meet this request, ENS Labs is prepared to challenge the patent directly.
In response, Matthew Gould, CEO of Unstoppable Domains, said the company continues to offer an open invitation to join the Web3 Domain Alliance, which is the owner of the US11558344 patent.
“We continue to offer an open invitation to join the web3 domain alliance and advance web3 naming for all systems – not just ENS. Just like ICANN was essential to DNS, standards bodies will be essential to web3,” Gould said.
I think your proposed solution doesn’t take into account the fact that we want there to be multiple naming systems – not just ENS – and the only way to ensure that future is to have a place where everyone (not just UD and ENS) collaborate.
There are no forward guarantees that…
— matt.x (@matthewegould) November 16, 2023
Ethereum Name Service (ENS) is a blockchain-native domain name system that gives users identity across Web3 and crypto platforms.
It shares the same basic concept with traditional domain name systems, only that it uses a distributed technology based on the Ethereum blockchain.
The primary function of ENS is to convert machine-readable identifiers like cryptocurrency addresses to human-readable domain names.
Earlier this year, the company announced plans to launch a new domain name extension dubbed .box.