Following is the Q&A with Dr. Dominik Thor, CEO of Vaultitude. Questions were submitteded by members and the team of Inflow-Crypto Club through e-mail and Telegram Group.
Official website: https://www.vaultitude.com/
Welcome Dr.Thor, could you please make a short intro into the Vaultitude project?
Thank you very much for the opportunity to address these questions and I will try my best to answer them in detail.
Vaultitude makes legally protecting the creations of authors, artists, scientists, and inventors not only faster but cheaper and more secure.
But let me start by pointing out that Blockchain technology has been identified by the multi-billion USD intellectual property (IP) industry and its regulatory bodies as a potential game changer. Due to its notary-like characteristics, it provides actual proof for the authorship of creative assets and innovations which is the basis for both defending copyrights and acquiring patent rights. This represents a yet hardly known use case of Blockchain technology but one that actually has the potential to transform an existing industry – at least as much as it is meant to change the financial world!
Vaultitude is the first holistic IP protection tool that incorporates all the many possible applications of Blockchain for IP (protecting, selling, sharing, analyzing, networking etc.) and will help millions of innovators around the world. We are proud to already have the support of most major stakeholders in this field, including the World Intellectual Property Organization, a United Nations agency and the highest worldwide authority in IP. Our software has been designed with leading stakeholders in IP is being presented at major conferences and evaluated by leading corporate innovators, global law firms, and universities. It will become the new standard for IP protection and a marketplace to monetize all kinds of innovations.
You’ve rebranded, haven’t you? How come?
Actually, that is a good example of how important IP protection really is. After launching the project, we have come across some copycats who started to use similar sounding names and decided we need a less generic name that captures the essence of our project and protect that with a trademark. Vaultitude is a reference to our digital vault which protects the users’ IP and the overview (altitude) you get when you use our software to manage and protect your creations. We believe the new brand will help to firmly establish this innovative platform as an indispensable tool in the arsenal of innovators looking to protect their creations and serves as an opportunity to remain unique in the marketplace.
How far are you with the development? When are you launching? Do you have an MVP (minimum viable product)?
We have already released a tech demo a while back, which demonstrates how we use IPFS and the Ethereum Blockchain to upload data and provide the user with a timestamp for proving his status as inventor/author. We picked a piece of intellectual property everyone in the crypto community can relate to – a fictional ICO which you can upload to show that you had this idea prior to anyone else. Or simply to have fun and see that it actually works! Feel free to share it with friends interested in protecting their ICO idea: https://demo.vaultitude.com
Vaultitude 1.0 is meanwhile coming along nicely and we will release a fully working version before our ICO in September. There is a video in which I guide through the UX design and gives you a feel of how the platform will work. We think we managed to include a lot of features in a way that is still easy to understand and use. Those features include:
- Safe Storage of IPs, Research, Trade Secrets and Confidential data
- Improves collaborative work through drafting mode and different user roles
- Proof of Authorship & Practical application of Copyrights
- Defensive Publication (faster, more secure and cheaper)
- Sell / License / Transfer IP via a marketplace
- The monetization of research (provide access for a fee)
- Sharing of Confidential Data (by using non-disclosure agreements and storing them on the Blockchain)
- Search & Analyse IPs
- Networking and Messanger functionalities like Linkedin
- Filing of Patents & Trademarks
- Peer Review and Ratings
You can check out the demo here.
Did you make market research before starting the project, any feedback from potential users?
In the early days, we did a lot of research to understand why nobody else has done what we wanted to do. Were we wrong to assume this potential of Blockchain for IP? Did we not understand the laws? So, we started talking to the highest regulatory body worldwide, WIPO, who amazingly pledged us their support and we now have two former WIPO Directors on board as advisors.
The European Property Offices was also very supportive and helped us the design our APIs in a way that they can easily use all Vaultitude data for their own research. Our advisors represent all possible stakeholders to ensure we meet the needs of the different kinds of future users (scientists, artists, inventors, companies) among them university technology transfer officers, managers of global pharmaceutical companies, patent lawyers, game designers (one of our advisors is a manager of Germany’s largest game developer with over 100 million copies sold) and artists.
We also have a partnership with Dennemeyer, the largest specialized IP law firm worldwide and talk to Baker McKenzie, Allen & Ovary and Clifford Chance. Global players with a combined total of 15,000 lawyers. Meanwhile, we were also approached by leading innovators from the corporate world among them-tech companies like IBM and Siemens, which are interested in Vaultitude as it is superior to existing tools and way of IP protection and monetization. IEEE (a global association of engineers with 420,000 members) evaluates Vaultitude as a tool for protecting their members’ IP and as a marketplace for the selling and licensing of their inventions and MCAA, representing over 11,000 European researchers, is an official partner. We also talk to a large number of universities and Fraunhofer Institute a German research organization with 69 institutes, which employs around 24,500 people, mainly scientists, and engineers.
The feedback from the IP industry is amazing, with each type of user having slightly different expectations. We knew this beforehand, which is why in our whitepaper https://vaultitude.com/assets/downloads/Vaultitude_WhitePaper.pdf we identified different types of users and designed Vaultitude in a way that meets all their requirements.
I see you are connected to WIPO and other IP organizations. What is your relationship now with them?
As mentioned before we are glad to partnerships with many IP organizations and we take great care to continue to have discussions with all important stakeholders and patent offices. Vaultitude has already been invited to talk about Blockchain & IP at a number of important IP conferences and workshops organised by the European Patent Office (EPO), European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), local patent offices such as the Danish Patent Office, various universities and important international associations such as IEEE and LESI (a corporation of IP managers of thousands of international corporates) and local IP lawyer associations and research organisations such as Fraunhofer Institute.
We are talking to the largest patent and trademark offices and as we are following WIPO guidelines and international classifications Vaultitude will be used by more than 150 patent offices worldwide for their research.
What about current or future anticipated regulation in this field, does it help your project? Are you on the right side of regulation?
The acceptance of Blockchain as proof in the context of intellectual property will most certainly be pushed forward by the regulators. Both Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO, and Antonio Campinos, EUIPO Executive Director, consider Blockchain technology a potential game-changer for the IP industry. Legislators in many countries such as the US, Sweden, Japan, Brazil, UK, and Dubai are already pushing forward several initiatives to acknowledge evidence and records based on Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies. The EU is heading in the same direction, and the current eIDAS regulation (an EU regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market) already prohibits courts from denying the legal admissibility of timestamps as evidence on sole grounds that the timestamp does not meet the more stringent requirements of an EU-qualified timestamp. Unlike the banking industry, the IP community welcomes DLT.
You will initially use ERC20 standard on Ethereum blockchain. But, to quote your statement in the Telegram group: “However we design our architecture in a way that we could port to a more suitable public Blockchain in the future.” Are you planning to shift to EOS or some other, perhaps more suitable blockchain?
We believe that Ethereum is well suited for Vaultitude at this point and considered a secure network and widely accepted. Still, with the number of new Blockchain projects coming up we may see a more suitable candidate emerge and therefore we decided to keep evaluating potential shifts to other Blockchains in the future.
Why do you need blockchain for this project? Is this necessary?
The answer is pretty straightforward and – to be expected when trying to solve intellectual property related challenges – a legal one. Due to its notary like characteristics the Blockchain awards actual proof of authorship. That is the basis for both defending IP rights such as copyrights or being qualified to receive awarded rights such as patents. I agree with the implied notion that most ICO project do not need to use Blockchain tech and just hope to profit from a general hype. Vaultitude, on the other hand, can revolutionize a sector which rightly has already identified Blockchain as a great candidate for improvement but has been waiting for the right solution to emerge.
I feel that after quite a few disappointments in the recent past – with projects simply not delivering what promised – Blockchain investors increasingly want to understand and see the actual USP of a project rather than just follow herd behavior, which is seldom sound investment strategy.
What kind of blockchain technology will you use on your platform and why is it better than that of your competitors?
We combine IPFS storage with Blockchain timestamps by hashing the IPFS file and placing that digital fingerprint on the Ethereum Blockchain to provide proof of authorship or to document the transfer of ownership and legal contracts such as non-disclosure agreements. This is a very elegant solution that offers timestamps that act as legal proof thanks to immutability, reduces costs and ensures that, unlike when using server-based services, the likelihood of that data getting hacked, lost or offline is next to non-existent. Please see below regarding our competitors.
Who do you consider your direct competitors?
Vaultitude is a unique, holistic solution and while some companies may seem to have a similar offering, a closer look reveals they at best offer fragments of what we do and few of them use Blockchain technology (we do have an overview of the market in our whitepaper https://vaultitude.com/assets/downloads/Vaultitude_WhitePaper.pdf)
One example that is often cited because it is a service used by many large corporates is IP.com (which offers only defensive publication, which but a small part of Vaultitude can do).
Defensive publication: If you have already paid for a global patent family, it is unlikely you want to file and pay for new patents after you made just small changes to your patent-protected innovation. Still, those changes could be patent protected by someone else, which is also not good. This is when you release the info to the general public, called a defensive publication, which makes it impossible for anyone to file a patent as any technology has to be new and unknown to the public for that to happen. Defensive publication is a billion USD global market and IP.com is one of the big service providers. They essentially place this information on their servers and patent offices find it in their research. Vaultitude, however, stores this on the Blockchain.
Not only will our service cost less than one third, it is also more secure because theoretically our own servers can go down (or we could go out of business) and the information is still on the Blockchain! So, it is a better protection for less money which explains why so many organizations are excited to talk with us. Again, a defensive publication is only one aspect and no competitor is a one-stop-solution like Vaultitude.
What is your ”To Market” plan, who are you targeting?
We are targeting:
- Corporate R&D / IP departments who need to protect their IP, improve their teamwork on new inventions, make defensive publications, safely share confidential information and trade secrets with partners.
- Researchers, scientists and universities who need the improved protection of their findings and scientific articles, networking, peer reviews and a way to monetize research and inventions with our marketplace.
- Private inventors who need a safe marketplace and the possibility to file patents and trademarks.
- Artists, authors, coders, developers, designers, game artists etc. who need proof of ownership for the practical application of their copyright, a marketplace that allows them to sell or license their work.
- IP professionals and lawyers who provide such services to their clients
- Patent offices who need Vaultitude for their own prior art search
What will be your major focus when establishing userbase, who will be your first targets?
We are already talking to the big international corporates, global law firms, global associations representing thousands of possible users, universities and patent offices as we believe that by winning them as users there will be many more that join automatically. Vaultitude shares networking functionalities with Linkedin e.g. so whenever you send an offer to someone or exchange an information, that person will join (for free) and the network will grow.
Due to its moderate pricing, I think Vaultitude is especially useful to private users but those we either win organically (word of mouth) or using marketing campaigns and how those are to be employed will ultimately depend on the company’s funding.
Are there any concrete partnerships in the pipeline? Can you name some?
IEEE considers Vaultitude as a marketplace and IP protection tool for their 420,000 members.
3 global law firms mentioned before with a total of 15,000 lawyers evaluate our platform and are interested in a partnership.
We are pitching to the IP departments of multinational corporates with an R&D emphasis already.
There is, however, little to be gained from their perspective if they agree to a partnership before we release the software and such behemoths are not exactly fast in their decisions. We are extremely optimistic that we can release more updates however as the release date draws nearer and in the weeks after it has hit the market.
Anything else interesting you can share with our community that is perhaps still unofficial?
Our talks with IBM, Siemens, Fraunhofer, Allen & Overy, Clifford, Chance, Backer Mc Kenzie, Fraunhofer, Grant Thornton, are all focusing on partnerships and are still unofficial so to speak.
We are also in talks with LexisNexis one of the four major businesses comprised by Reed Elsevier, a global publisher, and provider of information solutions with annual revenue of $8.94 billion and
Clarivate, the former Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property and Science Business, sold for 4 billion USD. Those could be great partners but the evaluation is ongoing.
Your team looks rather small with many more as advisors. How come? You don’t seem to have any developers. Do you have people who are capable to pull this project off technically?
We have 10+ team members working as community managers, social media managers, translators etc. not listed on the webpage. For the development, we decided to intentionally outsource the work. Many ICOs seem to prefer in-house developers but as a software developer (which we essentially are) we knew we had to get experienced staff with a solid track record.
We are working with 3 companies (Limechain, Kickflip, and Razorlabs) and a total of 9 people are working full-time on Vaultitude, who have a lot of experience and delivered great results for the likes of Microsoft etc.
Limechain is an experienced Blockchain development studio handling all smart contracts etc and also responsible for the project management. KIckflip Studios are experts in UX/UI design and Razorlabs are the hardcore developers handling the building of the architecture. There even was an article on the cooperation …it contains a lot of info on our project. You can read it here.
What is the background of your team? What do you think is your biggest strength and weakness?
Our team has a varied background but most core members have been heavily involved with IP and research as this is where our project has its roots. This has been extremely helpful in understanding the requirements of our future users and getting the support of key stakeholders.
As Vaultitude represents a new use case of Blockchain and requires a bit of understanding of intellectual property laws we, however, found it more difficult to get Blockchain experts to understand why IP is an ideal match than to get the IP community excited. Which has been a weakness up to this point and something we want to better address in the future.
Are you hitting all the marks on your Roadmap? And how does it look-like for future targets?
Actually, in terms of development speed, we are exceeding our initial targets and will release a fully working version even before the ICO end of Q3.
How did you derive the hard cap for your project?
My personal background is in financial markets and I have been involved in a number of businesses across all stages including startups.
One of the hardest predictions to make revolves around funds – especially or even more so in a market space that is changing so rapidly. Costs for listing, promotion, and services in the ICO field have dramatically changed over the course of this projects as has the ETH price. We had to define a hard cap in ETH and decided to choose a number equivalent to 20 million USD at the time.
The rationale behind it was that we had to provide a faultless and fully working platform that is absolutely unique and may have to get updates even during its first months when the user base is still growing. Also, income would be lower as users who bought the utility tokens in the ICO would essentially use it for free until their tokens are spent. Then there is the fact that we will have to provide APIs to those 150 patent offices and ideally put together a sales and marketing team that can ensure that this technologically superior platform actually sees the adoption it can have. And that does not even cover the ever-increasing costs that are linked to exchange listings and additional services (market making often is expected).
We started by making an educated guess (20 million) then scrapped that because it felt no professional enough and came up with a very complex business plan based on hundreds of best guesses and a buffer as security, which, to our pleasant surprise, came to a more or less similar conclusion. I think many projects would give the same answer here.
When are you conducting your public ICO?
It will start on Sept 30, 2018.
What will you be doing marketing-wise in the near future to present your project to the interested public, your future users? And since addressing potential ICO investors is something completely different than the potential users, what is your marketing strategy there?
ICO marketing has changed over the course of the last 12 months. Listing sites and reviews alone are not going to cut it anymore so to speak. We will, therefore, focus on working with trustworthy influencers that have the ability to convey the potential of this use case of Blockchain technology. We are not just using Blockchain because it’s a hype (as many dApps do) or trying to create a new and small niche market. The IP industry is a global multi-billion USD sector and actively looking for a solution, which we will soon provide.
However, given the increasing awareness of the general population for all things Blockchain, we are also happy to use traditional media outlets to spread the word. One big step for us will be the beginning of July when a team of CNBC will come to Europe to film a special on Vaultitude. This will be featured on CNBC’s “Advancements with Ted Danson” series broadcasted in September to over 110 million households in the US. We also get 300 prime-time commercials on the network.
We also use a lot of networking through our partners to get in contact with suitable users. That is why we talk to so many associations such as LESI, AIPPI, MCAA, IEEE allow us to reach hundreds of thousands of scientists, companies, and inventors.
You mentioned exchanges already in your Telegram Group. Will you be able to share some news regarding this topic before the actual ICO? What is your exchange listing strategy? How are you preparing for that important part of the project?
The exchanges have pretty hefty non-disclosure clauses in their contracts. Essentially, we are not allowed to talk about any listings as long as we have not paid several hundred thousand USD upfront and then they decide at which point the information is released. What we can share at this point is that we have signed MOUs and will be listed on a leading Japanese exchange right after the ICO as well as another top 5 exchange.
According to your medium post, your private sale was already concluded. How come you decided to do another private sale with one successfully finished already?
Given the huge number of new ICOs and the complexity of understanding Vaultitude’s impact on the IP sector, we wanted to present investors with a fully working version of our products already at the time of the ICO.
Having more than just a white paper is also a must if you want to work with supranational organizations and global corporates and hope to put partnerships in place. This all meant we had to postpone the ICO and thus our development and marketing costs changed drastically.
Dr.Thor, it was great having you with us, you can wrap up with your closing thoughts.
Thank you, I am glad to have had the chance to address these topics. I feel that after quite a few disappointments in the recent past – with projects simply not delivering what promised – Blockchain investors increasingly want to understand and see the actual USP of a project rather than just follow herd behavior, which is seldom sound investment strategy.
Vaultitude 1.0 will be released even before the ICO and has the chance to revolutionize a whole industry. The timing could not be better, which is demonstrated by the support of key stakeholders and the already strong interest of huge behemoths into a service that is not even released.