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Do any legal opinions exist on the status of onchain tokens backed by offchain assets?

  • What case law / analogous examples are there to support blockchain proof of title.
  • Are any legal scholars actually looking at this.
  • If there is an investment company which manages assets on behalf of the owners of some token what kind of legal structure / legal agreements would be required to ensure that token owners are protected (e.g. in the case of insolvency and also from agency risks)

This question has been drawn from discussion by Dunning_Krugerrands, but I thought it was worthwhile enough to post here

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A blockchain to transfer title in a security is permissible, at least in the US (assuming that the company is incorporated in DE and the company has adopted bylaws that permit uncertificated securities) -- although there are some nuanced points that need to be thought through. See the paper from, Jeanne Schroeder

It also should be permissible, at least in the US, to use a blockchain to record title in other forms of intangible assets (such as chattel paper). See this article from Juliet Moringiello.

These articles touch on questions about insolvency. At least in the US, perfected security interests help govern issues of bankruptcy, insolvency, etc. Both of these papers presciently note that a blockchain would be great way to update the aging registration systems for security interests in the US.

Intellectual Property

In terms of title to IP, recording authorship information on a blockchain will likely be useful but will not convey full legal benefits. In the realm of copyright, recording title in a blockchain may be evidence of ownership and could be used to encode information related to licensing, etc. However, to enjoy the full benefits of copyright law, there must be affirmative documents filed with the Copyright Office.

A similar conclusion holds for trademark. Registering evidence of trademark use could help solidify common law trademark rights, but to enjoy nationwide rights there would need to be formal filings with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Many of these title questions are going to be resolved by closely examining existing laws and by working with governments to update these laws, as necessary.

*this wonderful answer by awrigh01

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