Block Inc. (NASDAQ: SQ), the payments company co-founded by Jack Dorsey, is reportedly threatening to sue Roger Ver’s Bitcoin.com for trademark infringement in Germany. The complaint stems from Bitcoin.com’s involvement in the Verse tokenized digital ecosystem and sales of its VERSE asset. Block Inc. acquired the similarly named Verse Technologies Inc. in 2020, which includes a mobile payments app called VERSE.
According to Cointelegraph, legal counsel for Block sent letters to Bitcoin.com in July and August 2022 informing the company it was infringing on trademarks under German law by using the name “Verse” and stylized all-caps word “VERSE.” Block Inc. demanded Bitcoin.com promise in writing to cease using the Verse/VERSE names in the European Union, threatening further legal action and a penalty of EUR10,000 for each “contravention” after its deadline. It also sent a request for Bitcoin.com to reimburse its legal fees for the procedure, coming to EUR3,744.
It’s not clear what the current status of Block Inc’s action is. Though the letter called for Bitcoin.com to comply by 17th August 2022, it appears the company has not abandoned the name. Press releases published on Bitcoin.com’s news site dated November 1 and 25, 2022 suggest Bitcoin.com and partner Chainlink are pushing ahead with a public token sale and ecosystem app development. A private sale of VERSE tokens raised over U.S.$33 million back in May 2022, and the public sale runs from 1st-30th November 2022.
Verse’s public token sale isn’t available to Japan or U.S. residents, or U.S. citizens abroad—as well as those in the usual list of financially-sanctioned entities. However, there’s no mention of the E.U. or Germany in the list.
The two Verses and VERSEs
The Bitcoin.com/Chainlink VERSE project, from the Chainlink BUILD program, claims to have over 35 million wallets and over 5 million active users. The ecosystem includes the BUILDS development framework and a selection of decentralized applications (DApps) and DeFi services with the VERSE “utility token” as its currency. Bitcoin.com’s role is to act as a “first touchpoint” hub to draw new users into the system.
Block Inc’s project of the same name comes from its acquisition of Verse Technologies Inc. and Decentralized Global Payments S.L. two years ago. In this case, VERSE is the company’s mobile payments app—occupying a different-yet-similar market sector to Chainlink’s Verse ecosystem.
Block Inc, COPA and Bitcoin
Block Inc. is the company formerly known as Square. It is associated with the blockchain development group Spiral, formerly known as Square Crypto. Block/Square is a founding member of COPA, the so-called “open patents” alliance of blockchain companies that appointed themselves guardians of blockchain-related intellectual property in 2020.
In that role, COPA also launched legal action against Bitcoin creator Dr. Craig S. Wright to challenge the latter’s copyright over the 2008 Bitcoin white paper. The outcome of that trial, scheduled now for 2024, could potentially provide the most definitive legal decision on Dr. Wright’s claim to be the man behind the “Satoshi Nakamoto” pseudonym and owner of key pieces of intellectual property associated with Bitcoin and other blockchain applications.
Several companies including Binance, Kraken and ShapeShift have previously expressed moral indignation at those who dare sue others in the digital asset/blockchain space over IP. The group of companies expressed that indignation most prominently in 2019 when the three exchanges delisted BSV as a trading asset, removing much of BSV’s liquidity. It remains to be seen if they’ll take a similar public stance against the actions of Block Inc., its founder Dorsey, and any blockchain projects associated with the company.
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Ethereum, FTX and Tether—who have co-opted the digital asset revolution and turned the industry into a minefield for naïve (and even experienced) players in the market.
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