Matter Labs drops ZK trademark applications after industry backlash

    03 Jun 2024

    Matter Labs, the team behind Ethereum layer-2 scaling solution zkSync, has dropped all attempts to obtain intellectual property rights to trademark the term “ZK” — short for “zero knowledge” proofs.

    Its decision came three days after several leading ZK researchers condemned the firm’s behavior “in the strongest possible terms,” iterating that ZK technologies should instead remain a “public good” that is “accessible to all.”

    “As a result of these conversations, we decided to drop all trademark applications,” Matter Labs confirmed in a June 2 X post.

    “It would be impossible to agree on a group of people perceived as credibly neutral by nearly everyone. What could have worked for Ethereum would not necessarily work for the entire world.”

    In a public letter, ZK proponents argued that ZKs should remain a public good — not a trademark of a corporation — and said a company seeking to exploit the legal system to annex a public good would violate a core part of the cryptocurrency industry’s ethos.

    “If the company goes through with this, it will be separating itself from the very community it claims to be part of,” the signatories wrote in the May 30 letter.

    The letter received seven signatures, including Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali, two of the three inventors of ZK-proofs, StarkWare CEO Eli Ben-Sasson and Sandeep Nailwal, one of the founders of Polygon Labs.

    Matter Labs initially said it applied for ZK-related trademarks to ensure ZK can be used freely in the context of “ZK Sync,” “ZK Stack” and other names tied to the firm.

    “A common misconception is that having a trademark means you legally own a particular word or phrase and can prevent others from using it,” Matter Labs said. “However, you don’t have rights to the word or phrase in general, only to how that word or phrase is used with your specific goods or services.”

    In response to Cointelegraph’s X post last week, Alex Gluchowski, the founder and CEO of Matter Labs said that he rejects “the very idea of intellectual property.” The post continued:

    “All the trademarks we had ever registered, including ZK-related ones, are defensive, to prevent dishonest actors from misleading their customers and confusing their products and services with the ones offered by Matter Labs (as had unfortunately been the case in the past).”

    Matter Labs had filed ZK-related trademark applications in nine countries, according to the statement by ZK researchers.


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