Decoding WIPO PROOF, A Proxy to Blockchain
Decoding WIPO PROOF, A Proxy to Blockchain: WIPO PROOF is an online digital business service introduced by The World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) that provides an online time stamping solution for unregistered IP assets. WIPO PROOF acts as a proof-of-possession that a digital content existed at a specific point in time and has not been altered since then.
Why is it useful?
WIPO PROOF provides a rapid and effective way to protect digital files at an affordable price by producing a proof of evidence for digital assets of innovators and creators in various industries. It complements the existing IP systems by safeguarding one’s intellectual assets whether or not they are converted into formal IP rights.
WIPO PROOF Applications
WIPO PROOF can be used for storing different kind of intangible assets that are not limited to:
- Trade secrets
- Creative works e.g., manuscripts and musical works
- Creative designs e.g., brand logos
- Software code
- AI algorithms
- Scientific data
- Digitally signed business documents
How does WIPO PROOF work?
Technology behind WIPO PROOF
Based on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology, WIPO PROOF generates a token for each digital file in an electronic format. The digital file is uploaded to WIPO PROOF through their website where the local browser generates a hash value (digital fingerprint) of the digital file generated by a strong one-way hashing algorithm – SHA-2 (256 bits). Only this generated hash value is uploaded to the WIPO PROOF system.
Further, the WIPO PROOF backend system timestamps the hash value of the digital file. This timestamped hash value is signed with a private key stored in a locked down Hardware Security Module (HSM) creating a digital signature. A Public key is also added to the digital signature to ensure authenticity. This digital signature is called ‘WIPO PROOF token’ which provides time stamped proof of existence of the digital file.
In order to access the digital file, one has to provide both the original digital file and generated WIPO PROOF token for verification. Similarly, the hash values are generated and compared for providing access to the file. It is important to remember that the original file should not be modified. Even the slightest formatting changes such as adding a period or a comma to the original file changes the generated hash value, which ultimately leads to mismatch of hash values of the original file and hash from the token. This leads to failure of verification for accessing the digital certificate. Hence, it is crucial to keep the original digital file unaltered along with its corresponding WIPO PROOF token.
Users can download their token(s) from the WIPO PROOF online service any time by logging into their registered account. For easy retrieval, WIPO stores each token for five years from the date it was created. WIPO ensures that the service’s cryptographic algorithms are always updated to the latest standards. Future improvements to WIPO PROOF will offer essential measures to maintain integrity as well as evidential value of stored tokens in case previously used algorithms are broken or obsolete.
WIPO PROOF vs. Blockchain
WIPO PROOF follows a centralized framework of validation which is different from Blockchain technology.
Blockchain is essentially a decentralized and distributed ledger technology for recording a digital asset’s provenance. It is a system that records information in a way that is difficult to change or hack. In simple terms, blockchain is a technology where digital information is spread across a network provided that information is timestamped, unalterable, and transparent to each person present in the network.
Blockchain allows any digital information to be distributed across the network providing a decentralized and robust means for securing data. On the other hand, the PKI utilizes digital signatures for accessing the stored data which is a weaker technology in terms of security as compared to Blockchain.
Although blockchain entries continue to be encrypted in the public domain, WIPO thinks that many innovators and creators may choose to retain both confidentiality and anonymity. WIPO PROOF offers this anonymity to its users. Though it does not allow users to store their digital files, it stores the digital signatures of the files. This, however, does not provide a real support for proving evolution in the project over a period of time. Also, one cannot modify or alter data in the digital file once a WIPO PROOF token is generated. This greatly affects an individual’s scope to update/add additional value to the digital files. Further, this would be a potential problem when the digital file belongs to some intellectual property assets, where inventors want to timely update their ideas. This is one potential area where Blockchain would easily tackle the issue.
In this digital era where information is easily accessible, WIPO PROOF offers a pertinent solution for secure storage and handling of intangible assets. Although WIPO PROOF’s PKI technology is less secure than the blockchain technology, it still provides complete anonymity of digital assets and is being accepted as proof of evidence in many jurisdictions. Furthermore, WIPO has not ruled out the possibility of integrating blockchain to its current architecture which could make WIPO PROOF a great option for protecting intellectual assets soon. Though WIPO emphasizes on advantages of PKI and wants to stick to PKI for digital validation of IP assets, several competing products based on Blockchain technology have emerged in the blockchain industry. It would be interesting to see how creators react to these technology-based solutions for securing the proof of ownership.
– Sumit Prasad and Appalla Srivastava (ICT) and the Editorial Team