- The name ‘Bitcoin’ was trademarked by a Norwegian entrepreneur in 2018
- Kjell Halvor Landsverk tried to enforce his ownership by sending cease-and-desist letters to Etsy sellers
- Reddit users took action and knocked him down a peg or two
We all know of Craig Wright’s attempts to copyright the Bitcoin whitepaper and generally obtain some kind of legal ownership of the Bitcoin name and brand. What he might not know is that in the UK something similar has already been done…or tried. A Norwegian entrepreneur trademarked the word ‘Bitcoin’ in 2018 and even got as far as sending out some cease-and-desist letters to clothing merchants who used the word on their merchandise. Then Reddit found out.
Bitcoin Trademark Was Awarded in 2018
The ownership of the Bitcoin name, or the lack of ownership, is one of the most important things about it. Just as the blockchain is decentralized so is the name, copyright, and branding – no one person or entity should have control over it. Craig Wright has tried to claim the Bitcoin copyright for himself in the US (as have four other people, incidentally), but if he tried to do the same thing in the UK he will find that someone has beaten him to it.
On December 22, 2017, Norwegian entrepreneur Kjell Halvor Landsverk filed a trademark application with the British Intellectual Property Office for the name ‘Bitcoin’ through his UK company Monopolip Ltd. As is sometimes the way with these things, he was granted the trademark on April 13, 2018, theoretically giving him the right to legally challenge anyone who used the word ‘Bitcoin’ on anything from ski masks to alcoholic jellies.
Landsverk didn’t waste any time in asserting his new powers, sending cease-and-desist letters to Etsy sellers that used the Bitcoin name, telling them they were illegally using his trademark. The seller asked Reddit for his opinion, which is where things went south for Landsverk.
Reddit Takes Action
Landsverk’s Wikipedia entry, which Redditors said was clearly written (badly) by himself for promotional purposes, was reported and pulled and it was made clear to anyone visiting the thread in the future that the Norwegian had no rights over the Bitcoin name whatsoever, despite owning its trademark.
Landsverk may have got a bit of paper with confirmation of trademark ownership, but it was made clear that trying to use this as a basis to launch a legal claim would see him “laughed out of court”. This is because to enforce a trademark in the UK you have to prove that the word is not simply a generic term that you want to own the trademark to but has some significance to the product or service being sold.
Trademark Ownership Would Not Stand Up In Court
Given that the Bitcoin name was created some 10 years before Landsverk’s application and that his company never made anything to do with Bitcoin, it was pretty clear that this was just an episode of ‘patent trolling’, where someone tries to buy patents, copyrights, or trademarks in the hopes of making some money off enforcing them, which rarely works.
However, Landsverk may have done the British Bitcoin community a favor – if Craig Wright tries to file for the Bitcoin trademark in the UK, he will find himself too late.