North Dakota Law

Updates from the University of North Dakota School of Law.

Professor Nikola Datzov recently presented at the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) Annual conference in Miramar Beach, Florida

Professor Datzov participated on a panel and presented his research, “IP Enforcement in Web3: An Unforeseen Roadblock.”

Session Summary – Intellectual Property and Web3

Submitted by Keith Robinson

The IP and Web3 panel took place on Sunday at 1 PM in Juniper 4.  This well-attended program brought together intellectual property scholars to discuss the emerging technologies of Web3 and how the current intellectual property landscape will impact Web3’s development.  Web3 is a phrase used to describe a collection of technologies and applications that promise to decentralize the Internet.  The panelists discussed issues surrounding technologies such as blockchain, non-fungible tokens, and quantum computing.

The panel was moderated by W. Keith Robinson and featured four expert panelists.  Raina Haque discussed blockchain and property durability.  Josh Fairfield discussed ideas surrounding the making of virtual things.  Nikola Datzov talked about issues surrounding enforcement of IP rights in the Web3 environment. Finally, Tabrez Ebrahim explored the patent policies of quantum standards development organizations.

Intellectual property will serve a critical role in protecting the applications and technologies produced as Web3 develops.  Professor Haque’s talked explained how distributed-ledger based assets may bridge between tangible and intangible properties.  Using NFTs as an example, Professor Fairfield explored the tendency to look to the technological essence of a virtual thing and the social narratives of value created by communities.  Professor Datzov’s talk addressed the problem of how to effectively serve a complaint to a defendant that can only be contacted the decentralized world of Web3.  Finally, Professor Ebrahim discussed the possible approaches to standardized patents in the area of quantum computing, an emerging area that relies on properties of quantum mechanics.

Participants: W. Keith Robinson, Professor of Law, Wake Forest University School of Law; Raina Haque, Professor of Practice, Wake Forest University School of Law; Josh Fairfield, William Donald Bain Family Professor of Law, Washington & Lee University School of Law; Nikola Datzov, Assistant Professor, University of North Dakota School of Law; Tabrez Ebrahim, Associate Professor, Lewis & Clark University Law School.

Read the original summary

Presentation Summary – IP Enforcement in Web3: An Unforeseen Roadblock

The presentation focused on discussing the ability for parties to meaningfully and efficiently enforce their IP rights in the age of Web3.  As we all know, substantive rights fail to be adequately protected when they lack a reasonable path (a legal right of action) toward a meaningful remedy.  For plaintiffs looking to enforce their IP rights in Web3, they may find a roadblock right out of the gate.

The start of any lawsuit requires compliance with strict rules regarding how a defendant must be notified of the proceedings before the court can provide any relief, regardless of how egregious the violation may be.  Those rules are structured for the realities of a physical, brick-and-mortar world, not the digital world our society is quickly transitioning to, much less the decentralized world Web3 promises to bring.  While the rules of civil procedure have inherent flexibility to allow for service through “alternative means,” historically, courts have been reluctant to allow parties to utilize this flexibility in a robust way.  This summer, a court in New York permitted a plaintiff to effect service through an NFT, since the defendant’s identity–much less location–was unknown.  Although the decision permitted service via an entirely new method, the concept is not unprecedented.  For example, courts have permitted similar unique-identifier approaches, such as a unique Amazon account identifier, when a defendant may be difficult to track down.  As Web3 continues to have a greater impact, and more people move within its scope, there will need to be greater reliance on what have been viewed as the exceptions to traditional means for service. Whether courts will be ready and willing to accept this transition in a greater scale remains to be seen.