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Matter Labs' zero-knowledge trademark bid sparks industry backlash

Gluchowski claimed that all technology created by Matter Labs is released to the public under free open source licenses

industry leaders collaborating on the issue of zero-knowledge trademarks

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Ethereum projects, including StarkWare, Polyhedra, and Polygon, have condemned Matter Labs’ efforts to trademark the term “zero-knowledge” as its intellectual property.

In a joint statement released via GitHub on May 30, notable industry figures argued that zero-knowledge (ZK) technology should remain a public good accessible to everyone.

Zero knowledge blockchains have gained popularity as a solution that enhances developers’ security and scalability by leveraging the robust security of existing layer-1 blockchains like Ethereum. These blockchains allow decentralized applications (dApps) to achieve higher throughput and faster transactions while protecting users’ personal information and reducing costs for end-users.

The joint statement, signed by prominent figures such as Polygon co-founders Sandeep Nailwal and Brendan Farmer, StarkWare CEO Eli Ben-Sasson, Polyhedra Network co-founder Tiancheng Xie, and Turing Award winner Shafi Goldwasser, asserts that Matter Labs’ attempt to trademark the term contradicts the ethos of crypto, Ethereum, and its principles. They argue that ZK should remain accessible to all and not be monopolized by a single corporation.

“We believe that ZK is a public good that belongs to everyone. A company exploiting the legal system to annex a public good violates the crypto ethos, the Ethereum ethos, and the academic ethos,” the signatories said.

In a separate X post, Polygon corroborated this view, stating that openness is fundamental to Ethereum and must be preserved, especially regarding core mathematical principles. The layer-2 blockchain network questioned whether users would truly benefit if one company monopolized ZK technology and pointed out that zkSync, Matter Labs’ network, would not exist without the ZK technology developed by Polygon Labs.

“Despite relying on others’ zk technology, Matter Labs now seeks to trademark “zk” to potentially restrict its use by others. Should anyone be allowed to monopolize math made publicly available […],” Polygon stated.

In response to the allegations, Matter Labs CEO Alex Gluchowski said that all the trademarks registered by his company were “defensive” and were done to “prevent dishonest actors from misleading their customers and confusing their products and services.”

Gluchowski also affirmed his opposition to “the very idea” of intellectual property, claiming that all technology created by Matter Labs “is released to the public under free open source licenses.”

Gluchowski also said that they have reached out to the Ethereum Foundation’s legal team and offered to collaborate on the creation of a legal framework for using “ZK” and other terms for public domain use.

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