ENS Challenges Unstoppable Domains’ Patent in Legal Battle

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Ethereum Name Service (ENS) has filed a petition with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to challenge the validity of a patent obtained by Unstoppable Domains (UD) in 2023. ENS argues that UD’s patent incorporates technology developed by ENS and made open-source. In a statement on social media platform X, ENS clarified that UD secured a patent for technology originally developed by ENS Labs with the intention of being open-source.

ENS Update: In 2023, Unstoppable Domains (UD) obtained a patent for technology developed by ENS Labs as open-source. Today, we have petitioned the USPTO to challenge the validity of that patent and to ensure that the web remains a collaborative space. Here’s why and what’s at stake.

Both ENS and UD offer domain name and wallet services with top-level domains (TLDs) like .crypto, .eth, and similarly branded names that have a connection to the crypto space. ENS claims that UD patented “ENS’s pioneering technology, directly leveraging our open-source innovations,” with ENS’ contributions even being cited in the patent. “We gave UD every opportunity to avoid this battle: UD refused to open source the patent and refused to make any irrevocable pledges not to use the patent to the detriment of the community,” ENS stated.

In response to the petition, Unstoppable Domains founder Matthew Gould stated on X that the patent was reviewed by the examiner with the citations to ENS in place. Gould argued that patents are valid and that “filing patents is very common in both web3 and the domain industry.”

On this note, Nick Johnson, the lead developer of ENS, asked Gould to cite the key innovation in UD’s patent that wasn’t already part of ENS.

Perhaps you can summarize, Matt, for all the people on Twitter who don’t have time to read the whole patent. What’s the key innovation your patent covers that wasn’t already part of ENS?

At the time of writing, Gould is yet to reply to Johnson’s query, a lack of response for which the latter posted two cricket emojis. In his initial response to ENS’ thread, Gould argues that Unstoppable Domains has several other patents pending and will continue to file patents to “protect” the company. Gould also mentions that his company had made a non-assertion pledge over a year ago and views the issue as resolved.

In July 2022, Unstoppable Domains raised $65 million in a Series A round led by Pantera Capital, sending the firm’s valuation to a unicorn status at $1 billion. ENS, on the other hand, operates based on a set of decentralized smart contracts for an open and public infrastructure.

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