Patents vs. CADChain: Meet the New Age in CAD IP Protection

To stay in business today, it is necessary to manage the company’s assets very carefully. It is relatively easy to deal with tangible assets, just try not to burn your office building down, and things will be just fine.

But what to do with your intangible assets, such as IP ownership? This is not a small amount of a company’s value. As research suggests by now, more than 84% of a business’s market value is concentrated around intellectual property.

The pace of digital innovation keeps increasing, but forming a patent that would guarantee any significant competitive advantage while protecting IP, especially designs (CAD files), from infringement is hardly achievable.

Modern practices in financial accounting do not cover for needs of small and medium enterprises and make it virtually impossible to account for all possible vulnerabilities in IP protection.

We view CAD files as the bulk of the value of a business because no matter what product you sell: beer bottles, advertising constructions, soda cans, or cars, you will need to design it by using CADs. And if valuable design projects are leaked or stolen, this may cause significant damage not only to your finances but also to other intangible assets of yours, such as brand recognition.

Shall I patent my design?

Protecting your IP is always a complicated endeavor, and when it comes to doing it, the first idea that may come to you is to patent your IP properly.

To do so, you need to complete quite a number of steps, such as:
  • determining the market value of your IP
  • obtaining approval from a copyright agency of your country
  • registering your IP, which has a lot of complex steps on its own
  • create and test prototypes of your product
  • and finally, prove that this product may be released to the market.
That’s a lot of things to do, isn’t it? But this is just the tip of the iceberg, as after everything is settled with your CAD file, you still need to make the product. And to do so, you are pretty likely to address Chinese companies, and it suddenly poses a ton of new problems for your product.

Traditional IP rights are territorial, and Chinese copyright and infringement laws only work for patents registered in China. This, in turn, means that unless you want to see fake copies of your product or its parts, you need to go through the patenting process again.

This may actually help if you have a team of trained lawyers capable of operating both in Western and Chinese patenting laws, but with CAD files, things get even trickier. In fact, you need to patent every piece and bit of CAD to avoid certain “modifications” of the file. But apart from infringement, there is a possibility that your files will be leaked accidentally. And if this happens, no patent will protect you from file loss.

Also, the whole patent ecosystem is not exactly business-friendly. Intangible assets are very difficult to control, and even a company’s management may have problems understanding and valuing them. Even if the CAD’s patenting is made by people who actually create the files, they may not be able to complete the task properly, as they excel at creation, not asset management.

Sometimes businesses and freelancers have no idea which particular patent is truly relevant for them. This becomes even more confusing if we take into account the fact that the moment a business decision in patenting is made, it may be difficult and expensive to execute.

In general, the traditional system of patents is lagging behind the digital transformation of businesses, making it fairly impossible to cover all needs in IP protection. And this is especially true for innovation-intensive medium and small businesses and companies.

Is there a better solution?

CADChain develops a solution to solve this problem. We combine the power of geometry, cryptography, smart contracts, and blockchain.

We blend geometry and cryptography for state of the art IP protection that is securely embedded into the file. We analyze the geometry and create a geometric twin of any CAD file. We then use cryptography to hash the results and irreversibly link the data to the IP owner on our blockchain protocol.

Blockchain technology makes it possible to see how the computers within the network interact and what changes occur to smart contracts making them especially valuable in the context of patenting.

But the most crucial feature of protection through blockchain is the necessity for all participants of the network to permit all actions with smart contracts. So for a contract to be concluded, all the members of a blockchain network must agree on all parts of it.

Our solution employs Ricardian smart contracts that are digitally parsable and readable to both man and machine. The contracts create multiple subcontracts providing oversight for the owner and have functions similar to software programs, such as dependencies and variables.

Ricardian contracts take care of licensing and contracting (signing of NDAs and other agreements) in an automated fashion.

The key feature here is that Ricardian smart contracts are linked to the data (the CAD file, in our case) itself. This feature makes it possible to avoid data loss on the stage of contracting, as this new digital legal tool allows to verify agreements between parties and adhere to previous subcontracts without disclosing the content on the table.

So, summing it up, thanks to Ricardian contracts, we can create a contract easily both readable by humans, like regular printed text, and accessible as a database. Furthermore, the contract can be digitally signed, allied with a unique and secure identifier, and also carries the next important feature of our solution: geometric twins.

The computer-aided design may consist of a numerous number of parts that work their magic when combined together. In terms of patenting, it is important to account for every tip and bit, as changing even the slightest part of a design will make it possible to violate your IP ownership over it.

But as Ricardian smart contracts speed up the whole licensing process, our geometric twin technology makes it easier, faster, and more secure to work with CADs. The idea is to encrypt a CADs geometric twin onto a blockchain, sign it with a digital key and carry on all operations with it, registering any changes related to the CAD file.

This way of handling files doesn’t only keep your original file safe and sound, as the twin is secured by digital fingerprint with one and only master-key belonging to you, but also speeds up the whole registration process greatly. This happens because blockchain-based data protection technology is becoming more widely used in China, where most manufacturers are based, making it way easier to avoid all bureaucratic processes along the way.

By using this concept, we at CADChain manage to structure and protect CAD data.
Fortunately, the problem of patenting is noticed not only by us, and the demand for change is immense.

Recently the European Commission has verified the use of blockchain for tracking files. And now, the Commission has recognized the importance of smart legal contracts in blockchain-based areas. It is currently developing an innovative framework in the areas of digital assets and smart contracts that protects customers and provides legal certainty to entrepreneurs.
We started with a plugin named BORIS for Autodesk Inventor that takes care of IP protection (CADPlug) by registering CAD files and their owner on the blockchain.

A web interface connected to the plugin allows data tracking and design licensing (CADTrack).
Later we will unite them both in a stand-alone enterprise application that allows for secure file management across continents for internal business use and has more complex custom functionality (CADShare).

We at CADChain are staying at the edge of progress, constantly improving and modifying our solution for CAD-data protection! Try our product BORIS for Fusion 360 to empower your 3D designs protection.

Check it out for yourself and download a beta version for your Autodesk Inventor!