In March this year one of the world's leading Bitcoin exchanges, Mt Gox collapsed after being hacked for a second time. The Tokyo-based company filed for bankruptcy protection and admitted it had lost around 850,000 Bitcoins due to hacking. At the time their worth was £330m, altough since then they have apparently recovered 200,000 of the virtual currency.
Now Mt. Gox, or rather those handling their bankruptcy are looking to sell the Japan and EU trade marks for Bitcoin in order to make some reparations, a company executive said. The trade marks are due to expire in 2021 in Europe and 2022 in Japan.
There are also plans to include the domain name (bitcoins.com) in a bundle package with the asking price set at $1million.In February the company had debts of around $56-63 million, so it makes for good incentive to sell off.
Mt. Gox said at the time they filed the trade mark they "felt obliged to step up and oppose opportunists around the world from trademarking the concept and term".
So what happens when they sell the Bitcoin trad emark?
Here is where some problems arise. Anyone who buys the bitcoin trade mark from Mt. Gox may run into some trade mark law issues.
First, Tibanne, the company owned by Mark Karpeles who first filed the trade mark are the not the original users of the term "Bitcoin". The word first appeared in 2009 in Satoshi Nakamoto’s original white paper.
This means that any firm looking to buy the trademark would have to prove the word hadn’t entered general usage prior to when the trademark was first registered.
Secondly, Tibanne registered "Bitcoin" in four classes related to software, electronic commerce and the transmission and hosting of e-commerce services. Whoever purchases the trademark will need to use the trademark for these purposes, as well as prove the validity of the trademark on these grounds.
If not, the trademark may well be considered abandoned and others could trademark the word in a new application filing rendering the purchase mute.
The approval of the generic term may have been a case of relative obscurity of the word among government officials and regulators. As a result, it’s possible it was approved because the examiner wasn't aware that bitcoin was a generic term.
So who will be the company that purchases the trade mark? And will we see a resurgence in the virtual currency market in the near future?