Coda Protocol Changes Name Over R3 Trademark Dispute
Mina is still the world’s most lightweight blockchain—coming in at 22kb thanks to its clever application of zk-SNARKs—but just don’t call it Coda Protocol anymore.
Effective today, the protocol formerly known as Coda has a new name, even though the underlying technology stack is all the same. Late last year, Wall Street-backed R3 sued O(1) Labs Operating Corporation, the parent company of the entity formerly known as Coda. Despite Coda and Corda having different applications and end-users, R3 claimed the name was “confusingly similar” to its “CORDA” trademark.
“Defendants’ use, promotion, marketing, and distribution of their CODA Protocol is therefore unlawful and is causing irreparable harm to R3,” according to R3’s 2019 lawsuit, which also pointed out that they had registered the trademark in 2016. “The CORDA Mark quickly came to signify the quality and reputation of R3 in the blockchain space.”
Corda said that it came to its name as a portmanteau of the mathematical term chord, a straight line that connects two points of a circle, the word accord, and its close synonym concord, as well as the musical term chord — a harmonious collection of musical notes.
O(1) Labs hasn’t explained how it came to choose its protocol’s former name, which usually refers to the concluding section of a piece of music, though CEO Evan Shapiro has publicly criticized Bitcoin as a “stolen revolution” and hardly being as decentralized as claimed. Perhaps hyper-decentralized and computationally tiny Coda wanted to be the final word and conclusion to the technology that Bitcoin started.
But starting today, the conclusion and final word to Corda’s lawsuit is Mina—which, according to the editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, means an ancient unit of weight. In one Babylonian period, one Mina was equal to about 640 grams.
In an open letter announcing the name change, the team behind Coda said that while they liked the Coda name and were sad to see it go, marshalling a defense against the much better-funded R3 team—which counts Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS as its stakeholder-members—likely would not have been a cost-effective endeavor.
“Yes, you’re bigger and have more money than us—but we’ve got more important things to do,” the team now called Mina wrote in an open letter. “So today, we’re saying goodbye to Coda.”
“While it’s been a challenging and time-consuming process, it’s also been an enlightening one,” the letter continued. “It helped us clarify who we are and what we stand for. To realize that at our core, we are builders. Builders who champion democratic ideals and technical excellence… Who believe that decentralized tech will rebalance the scales and put people in control of their lives.”
With the name change out of the way, things for the newly rechristened Mina Protocol are now going full speed ahead, according to the company. Mina’s adversarial testnet launches later this year, which is a way for participants to win token rewards for uncovering network vulnerabilities. Mina says that a platform for developing smart contract-based apps is also nearing completion and will be ready to launch soon.
What’s in a name?
Although Coda and Corda only have one letter of the alphabet separating the two, stakeholders in the industry know the two companies aren’t exactly after the same market, and neither makes an attempt to mislead the consumer into confusing the two.
But could someone saying one company name out loud quickly—or in anything less than flawless, perfectly enunciated English—lead a listener to think they meant the other guy?
A judge or jury—who don’t have the same familiarity with the finer divisions within the blockchain industry—might also not be very sympathetic.
“R3 might be able to convince a judge or jury that there’s trademark infringement by proving actual confusion through something like a survey where a certain number of respondents said that they mistook Coda Blockchain for Corda Blockchain,” Stephen J. Kontos, attorney at the Michigan-based IP law firm PatentXP, told Forkast.News. “R3 might also be able to convince the judge that there’s a likelihood of confusion given the similarities of the names, the overlap in the goods or services, the similarity of trade channels, the sophistication of customers who purchase their products, the number of other similar marks associated with blockchain products, whether the asserted mark is famous.”
The threshold for brand confusion in the United States was initially set out in a case involving the DuPont chemical company and is colloquially termed as the DuPont factors, explained Denver-based Intellectual Property law attorney Ryan Gordon.
“These include factors such as the similarity of the marks themselves, the similarity of the nature of goods, any fame associated with either mark, the similarity of trade channels the goods and services are distributed in, the length of time of concurrent use, as well as the conditions under which sales are made,” Gordon told Forkast.News.
As both Coda and Corda note in their description of services they are in the business of “management of electronic documents and spreadsheets for corporate accounting” and “software for use in processing financial transactions, fund transfers and currency conversion,” Gordon said in an email, “it’s not unlikely that there could be some confusion.”
Gordon points out that if the lawsuit had gone to trial, the Court would have looked at other elements, such as distribution strategies and similarities in customer characteristics when making a decision.
But as O(1) Labs has decided to throw in the towel and change its name, we’ll never know what exactly is in a name in the blockchain world—if two companies doing dissimilar things can reasonably co-exist a single letter of the alphabet apart.