Hey Folks: There is a disagreement on strategy about how to manage the Zcash trademark. This post is to make sure you know the current status of the trademark and draw your attention to the strategy questions about how to use it going forward.
ECC is currently the owner of the trademark, having created the trademark along with creating Zcash, and registered it in many countries.
ECC had previously publicly stated that we would sign the Zcash trademark into a novel legal agreement which effectively provided “2-of-2 multisig”, or double-veto, where either the ECC or Zfnd would have the power to unilaterally prevent use of the trademark. We have not yet come to a mutually-acceptable legal agreement with Zfnd on that, so for now the Zcash trademark remains the sole property of ECC. We’ve publicly committed (both me personally, and ECC as a corporation) that as long as we’re the sole steward of the trademark, we’ll use it to honor the community’s decision in the current governance process.
There are a few things that we’ve learned about the disadvantages of the 2-of-2 “double-veto” approach. One is the inherent problem with double-veto, which has been illuminated as we worked on the legal agreement and received 3rd party feedback. The inherent problem with double-veto is that it is prone to inaction or deadlock. Our earlier intention had been that 2-of-2 would be a stepping stone to 2-of-3, or even further decentralization. But, if we were to lock the trademark into a 2-of-2 double veto, and then there wasn’t subsequent agreement on how to further decentralize it, then it would be in a dead end. There would be no way to move on to 2-of-3 or another more decentralized governance structure.
The other thing is that the community-driven governance decision process has surfaced several alternate governance proposals that would impact the agreement. Several of the proposals that seem to have a lot of community support specify 2-of-3 or 3-of-5 control over the funds. If the community settles on one of those proposals, then it might make sense for the trademark to be controlled by the same governance process that controls the funds.
So we believe that we should wait for the governance process to work itself out and we advocate for further decentralization of control over the trademark. As long as we remain the sole stewards of the trademark, we will use it to protect the community’s decision in this governance process.
There is disagreement about this strategy. We posted about this topic in the two links mentioned above, plus I replied with a comment on this forum thread in which there was the incorrect statement that the Zfnd could use the trademark to veto a proposal. Josh Cincinatti’s reply to my post is an eloquent summary of his disagreement about this strategy. In short, if I understand it correctly, he thinks the risks of inaction and deadlock (which are greater in a 2-of-2 double-veto structure) are less important than the risks of abuse (which are greater in a 1-of-1 unilateral control structure). But read his reply yourself because he thinks clearly and expresses himself clearly.
The bottom line is that the previous plan to lock the trademark into a 2-of-2, double-veto governance structure with the Zfnd has not (at least not yet) been implemented, and the trademark currently remains under the unilateral control of ECC. We’ve publicly committed that during the current decision process we’ll use the trademark to honor the community’s decision.
What to do with it long-term is an interesting strategic issue, and now that the sunsetting of the Founders Reward has stimulated such vigorous community engagement, I think the time has come for the community itself to start taking more power over the trademark. How exactly to do that—I’m open to ideas. One strawman idea: whatever governance process the community comes up with for managing future funds, if any, ECC could potentially assign the trademark to be controlled by the same governance process as the funds. If you have other ideas, please let me know, publicly or privately! Thanks.