Intellectual Property (IP)

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes tangible and intangible creations of the human intellect. There are many types of intellectual property, and some countries recognize more than others. The most well-known types are copyrights, trademarks, and patents. Intellectual property is a legal concept that gives the owner of the IP the right to exclude others from using, making, or selling their creation. IP is meant to encourage innovation and creativity by providing a financial incentive for people to create new things by protecting the creation and excluding others from using it without permission. Without intellectual property protection, it would be much harder for creators to make a living off their work. For example, if there was no copyright, anyone could make a copy of a book or movie and sell it without the creator ever seeing a dime. This would obviously discourage people from creating new works, since they would have no way to make money off them.

Most countries have laws that protect intellectual property. These laws vary from country to country, but they typically give the owner of the IP the right to sue someone who infringes on their rights. There are some controversies surrounding intellectual property, particularly patents. Some people argue that patents are too broad and prevent others from building on existing ideas. Others argue that IP protection is essential for encouraging innovation.


Patents are a form of IP that give inventors the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling their invention for a limited period of time. Patents incentivize innovation by providing a temporary monopoly to the inventor, which allows them to recoup their investment and generate a return on their innovation.

Patents are granted by the government and are valid for 20 years from the date of filing. In the USA, in order to receive a patent, an inventor must file a patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The application must include a detailed description of the invention, as well as any prior art that may be relevant to the invention. Once the application is filed, it will be examined by a patent examiner to determine whether the invention is novel and non-obvious. If the invention is determined to be both novel and non-obvious, a patent will be issued.

Patents are fundamental to the US economy, as they provide incentive for innovation and investment in research and development. Patents are also important for promoting competition and ensuring that consumers have access to new and innovative products.

Patents in Biopharma

Patents are a vital part of the biopharmaceutical industry. They provide the exclusive right to make, use, and sell an invention for a set period of time, typically 20 years from the filing date. This gives companies the incentive to invest in the costly and time-consuming process of bringing new drugs to market.

Patents also play an important role in the development of new drugs. They provide a way for companies to recoup their investment and make a profit, which in turn funds further research and development.

However, patents are not without controversy. Some argue that they stifle competition and drive up the cost of drugs. Others argue that they are necessary to incentivize innovation.

The debate is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. In the meantime, patents continue to be an important part of the biopharmaceutical industry.

Intellectual Property Non-Fungible Tokens (IP-NFTs)

Non-Fungible Token (NFT)

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are a new type of digital asset that allows crypto users to own unique digital items. NFTs are unlike traditional cryptocurrencies, which are each interchangeable with one another. Instead, each NFT is one-of-a-kind and cannot be replicated.

This allows NFTs to be used for a wide range of applications, from digital art and collectibles to in-game items and digital assets. NFTs are stored on a blockchain, like other cryptocurrencies, which allows them to be bought, sold, or traded on a decentralized exchange.

The most popular use case for NFTs so far has been digital art. Collectors can purchase NFTs that represent digital artworks, and then display them in their digital wallets.

Other popular NFT use cases include in-game items, such as those in the popular game CryptoKitties, and digital collectibles, such as those issued by the NBA. NFTs can also be used to represent real-world assets, such as property or land titles.

The benefits of NFTs include their unique ownership, which allows them to be bought, sold, or traded like any other asset. NFTs also have the potential to be more valuable than traditional cryptocurrencies, as their one-of-a-kind nature makes them more scarce.

The risks of NFTs include their newness, which means that there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding them. They are also subject to the same volatility as other cryptocurrencies, which means their prices can rise and fall rapidly.

Overall, NFTs are a new and exciting type of digital asset with a lot of potential. Their unique properties make them well-suited for a wide range of use cases, from digital art to property titles.


IP-NFTs are a web3-native legal primitive that enable intellectual property or rights to intellectual property to be moved on chain and turned into a digitally-native, composable asset. An IP-NFT consists of 3 parts:

  • A smart contract

  • A legal contract

  • Metadata and decentralized storage layer

This enables intellectual property and its underlying data to be contained in one technical framework.

IP-NFTs are customizable and can have a variety of legal agreements attached to them. The most common are sponsored research agreements and contract research agreements.

Globally, early-stage biopharma research suffers from chronic underfunding leading to discontinued research in the early stages of the pharma development cycle. This is happening so regularly that academia has coined the phase of research up until clinical trials the “Valley of Death”. Researchers struggle to acquire funding due to three distinct reasons:

  • Lack of visibility and connection to relevant investors: Researchers struggle to connect and acquire funding from private investors

  • Legal complexity of IP deals: Deals such as license agreements surrounding pre-patent and patent IP are complex and often need legal support

  • Difficulty of determining the value of early-stage biopharma assets: Both funders and researchers have trouble assessing the value of early-stage research.

NFTs have created an unprecedented revolution in the creative space, rethinking copyright, royalties and IP. We believe it will also be instrumental in solving the above-stated problems. While NFTs have gained a lot of publicity related to art, much of the early interest around NFTs related to moving real-world assets on-chain. Molecule has been exploring a use case for combining IP and NFTs with DeFi in 2018.

An IP-NFT can also be used as an alternative to a patent early on by enabling the protection of data through secure federated data storage, which the NFT unlocks. In this scenario, every time the data is accessed, this can be transparently viewed — its history and ownership record is known and stored on-chain (i.e., on the blockchain, which in VitaDAO’s case means the Ethereum blockchain). Lastly, by making the IP programmable, the IP is more discoverable. This is particularly useful for academic data where there is no efficient way to find it. Programmability also helps create more modular legal contracts.

From the researcher’s perspective, this means that they have an entirely new way to get funded — one where they maintain autonomy, and where a community can directly support them and interact with their research. They can now mint IP-NFTs of their work, and these can be purchased and funded by those that are directly interested in supporting them. Ideally, these purchasers and funders will be DAOs and communities. These communities, like those emerging around VitaDAO, are interested in interacting with and directly supporting research. Instead of a grant agency or a company, the funding source becomes a network of enthusiastic people who want to engage and learn about the mission. This paradigm shift will completely change the way that biomedical research is funded and advances.

Last updated