OK, so this has the capacity to be extremely boring so I am going to try and keep it as short as possible. But I think the Chia Network Trademark agreement they are trying to force everyone to sign, and that they think controls all use over the words “chia” and “chia network” is of interest to the community because it acts as a window into the minds of the people managing this blockchain.
First thing, most of this agreement is available publicly on their website here. It goes through all the desires they have over use of their trademarks, and a lot of it completely unenforceable. The part that they have prospective licensees sign I acquired from a 3rd party who will remain nameless.
The agreement comes in three parts, the Signatory page, the Trademark section and the Copyright section, which is fine and outside the scope of this article. No patent licensing though, I guess as a technology company who likes to protect their IP no one ever thought of patent protections, or at the very least they aren’t licensing those out. Oh well. First we will look at the signatory pages, available below.
Other than the spelling mistakes, there isn’t much weird about this. It is only good for a year but renews automatically every year, minus written notice which can be used to just end the agreement any time too. I’m sure there’s a reason for that, but it seems redundant. It really seems more closely aligned to an agreement between actual partners rather than just disinterested 3rd parties.
Now we get into the publicly available piece that follows, the trademark terms. Some of these are quite special. Here it is in PDF form.Chia-Trademark-Policy
First thing, it would restrict someone in agreement here from writing this article, because it is critical of Chia Network. Apparently they don’t believe in the first amendment enough to allow people to criticize them by name. It would also prevent this article because I have embedded their Trademark terms, also a no-no in their eyes. But of course, perfectly legal and fine.
It says anyone who is signed to this agreement cannot register any domain with the word Chia in it? That’s odd, because a lot of signatories have that in their domain. Are they in violation anyway? Do they have a special agreement not publicly available? The answer to this is yes. They do have different agreements for different entities and some will be allowed to use domains registered with Chia in the name. Interestingly though, they can’t control this and anyone who isn’t signed to this agreement is free to register as many domains with Chia in it as they want. If you have you are nervous to use, contact me! I might be interested in it.
The “don’ts” that worry the most are the following, in no particular order:
- Do not register or use any domain name that incorporates a Chia Network trademark, name, logo, or any other Chia Network designation
- Do not use a Chia Network trademark, name, logo, or any other Chia Network in any materials without obtaining the written permission of Chia Network.
- Do not use a Chia Network trademark in the plural or possessive form.
- Do not use a Chia Network trademark, name, logo, or any other Chia Network designation in connection with content critical of Chia Network Inc, or ny and all of Chia Network’s products or services, or anyone associated with Chia Network.
That last one is a real doozy, and the lawyer I spoke to about it suggests its probably not even enforceable in the USA with how broadly they are interpreting their rights, but it really does a lot of heavy lifting when trying to determine what Chia Network’s actual values are. Side note, saying “Chia Network’s values” – also a violation. I asked Chia Network about the anti-criticism clause specifically and they had this to say.
while this would not be intended to apply to things like news/blogs/info sites with whom a license wouldn’t typically be needed, when it comes to commercial endeavors where an entity is indeed generating revenue in part off of the support gained from leveraging our trademarks, this clause is indeed intended to apply. It’s no different than similar clauses between business partners (albeit ones with money usually changing hands, where none does here). We are not in the business of telling them what they should say, but we will give them some guidance on what they shouldn’t say, if they want to financially benefit from our trademarks and brand association for free under a licensing agreement. A lot of this also can be applied to the legal requirement around Quality Control, as allowing people with a free license to say or do anything with our trademark will come back to haunt us, as a future bad actor trying to scam the community would be harder to legally challenge, as they could make the argument against us saying we have failed to enforce Quality Control in the past and therefore have no standing to challenge them now.J. Eckert, VP of Ecosystem Operations, Chia Network
As you can see, they are applying a trademark agreement meant to bind a close partnership and applying it to everyone. The quote above makes sense when you think of their agreement with Sirius Labs on a joint venture, but they do not have joint ventures with XCHScan or the pools they are licensing. They also say that it does not apply to news sites or blogs, but I am unaware of any informational sites with the word Chia in their name that have not been forced to sign an agreement. And they approached me immediately, even though I had literally just started the site. I will take this with a grain of salt until I see some evidence that there is a Chia dedicated news source they haven’t approached for a license.
I am actually blown away but how draconian these terms are when applied as liberally as Chia Network wants to. Since they want to control everyone’s use of the words Chia and Chia Network (Two things they create, not just their company names) they require you to basically sign away your right to free speech in order to say their name? That’s ridiculous.
Now, while I was talking to them it seems that they are beginning to recognize that not only is this agreement contrary to the values they express publicly as well as potentially unenforceable. They are saying it was from boilerplate that they got while setting up the business and that they actually removed some sections as too restrictive, which again leads credence to my theory this is meant to bind close partners who work on each other’s behalf and not barely connected 3rd parties who sometimes mention each other. I think having a simple set of trademark terms like Apple has where its clear that 3rd parties do not need to be licensed to use the marks, only under some circumstances and they will have separate agreements on usage.
I would be curious to see what happens when they tangle with the wrong people before doing so. This agreement doesn’t look likely to stand up in court to me, at least not in Canada or the USA. But I am certainly glad I didn’t sign it. Signing this is a death sentence for anyone wanting to remain objective, so consider that when dealing with Chia Licensed entities. It is very good that they officially recognize now that straight up news / opinion sites do not need to play this game, but it does make XCHscan look a lot more attractive considering Chia Explorer is legally prevented from being critical towards them. I like Freddie, and I think he’s great, but he shouldn’t have signed this agreement, assuming his looks like this.