Patent Application Targets Bitcoin Blockchain For Artwork Provenance

A newly-released patent application plans to use blockchain technology to create and maintain a chain-of-ownership for artwork.

The patent application, which was released by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) on Thursday, lists the framework’s investor as Howard H. Sheerin, a patent attorney in Scottsdale, AZ. According to Sheerin’s LinkedIn page, he presently works in Silicon Valley, where he has been “studying and actively participating in the cryptocurrency revolution, including to draft multiple Bitcoin/Blockchain patent application.” His website also indicates that he accepts bitcoin.

Stating in the patent application, Sheerin states that certificates of authenticity are vital to allowing sellers to get the full value of their artwork in auctions and other sales. Yet, paper certificates are not sufficient guarantors of provenance.

He states:

“Artists have in the past issued paper certificates of authenticity for each art piece they create so as to increase the value of each art piece for subsequent buyers. When a second buyer is interested in purchasing an art piece from a first buyer, the first buyer may present the paper certificate of authentication with the art piece in order to prove their legal and legitimate ownership of the art piece. However, paper certificates may be easily forged which greatly diminishes the value and efficacy of this authentication system. There is, therefore, a need for a better system to authenticate art pieces that are not easily circumvented.”

Sheerin wishes to patent a system that will enable artists to create ad transfer ownership rights using the Bitcoin blockchain or another cryptocurrency network.

Definitely, the problem with using a blockchain to create a chain-of-ownership is that an element of trust involved with the original registration of ownership.

For instance, in June, blockchain critic Terence into Eden tricked one such artwork provenance service-Verisart, which registers art on the Bitcoin blockchain- offering him with a certificate of authenticity confirming that he painted La Gioconda, otherwise known as the Mona Lisa, Leonardo de Vinci’s 16th-century work of art.

Even now, a month following Eden’s story went public on social media, he is listed as the rightful owner of the Mona Lisa, a “fact” that will always remain on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Sheerin’s suggested system seems to take a similar architecture, even though ownership is created using bitcoin addresses, this data is operated through a centralized chain-of-ownership (COO) website.

As a matter of fact, it appears that while such a system could improve the ease at which artists can create and move ownership rights, it still needs parties to put their trust in the centralized entity who operates the database and verifies the data contained.


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