Yesterday Chia released a new version of their website. It looks very nice, much more modern and befitting a company of Chia Network’s size. I am not sure if they improved the accessibility at all during this process, but I will defer to an expert on that before judging them. Either way, it looks very nice. And front and center is a new catchphrase, “The Internet of Markets”.
This is nice, sounds good and is meant is invoke thoughts of the Internet of Things (IoT) which is a sector that has seen significant growth in the last decade both in the home and on the factory floor. Its clear they would like to see the technologies they are building to federate various climate markets expand out to other sectors, under the general moniker of “The Internet of Markets”. But will it work?
No, I don’t think it will. Why? Because they trademarked it! Of course they did. The Internet of Things was a true, decentralized idea that came from hobbyists and companies alike. It wasn’t forced into being by big companies (that came later). And no one trademarked the core idea to charge rents or even prevent others from building on the idea.
Not only that, Chia Network isn’t even the first blockchain company to use the idea. A quick search suggests that a defunct “blockchain technology” company called Equichain did back in 2017 to described something completely different. You can still see their Twitter handle here and an archive of their site at archive.org.
I like the idea. I do. And the new site looks nice. But if Chia Network wants to coin a catchphrase and have it take off it needs to do first get cool (this part is happening) and second don’t trademark it. Lets other people build “Internet of markets” stuff with you. They really need to understand that they are only limiting adoption by locking phrases up behind Johnny Law. Who wants to make an Internet of Markets thing if Chia Network will force you to sign a revocable agreement or threaten to sue you? Not as many as are making IoT devices and services right now, that’s for sure.
A better strategy would have been to coin the term, leave it alone and thing build something like the “Internet of Markets Alliance” or whatever and a logo and stamp in order to certify other members, but leave the core term alone. If you look at “Internet of Things” trademarks you will see a ton of them around IoT services and the like. But the ones that attempted trademarks on the core term itself have either been abandoned or cancelled.
I understand that Chia Network is attempting to build an ecosystem with fewer scams and cons. Cryptocurrency is rife with them, and its very easy to co-opt someone’s brand in order to build your own (*whistles*). But when trying to make something like IoT but for markets you need mass adoption and interconnectivity. You need other people to build using your terminology without the risk of lawsuits. And a trademark licensing agreement that can be revoked provides no mitigation for that risk. I think they might have to let this one go if they want it to work like I think they do.
It is so odd to me that Chia Network is so trademark-happy. They publish all their code using the Apache 2.0 license which specifically prohibits someone from using the license if they sue anyone over a patent related to the licensed software. But they are very legally protective over terms they want to use. And honestly, I understand when it comes to their core brand. As mentioned, crypto is full of people who will poison your brand for a quick buck if you let them. But I think in the case of “The Internet of Markets” locking up the term will stifle adoption and usage too much.