A Threat to Telegram that is Bigger than Russia

Blockchain and cryptocurrency are gaining traction all over the world through wider adoption. With so many new companies entering into the space, there are new threats to the intellectual property that have to be navigated.

Posted by Joseph Christian on May 16th, 2018
image source: https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/russia-blocks-telegram-messaging-service/4350497.html

Telegram, the beloved secure messaging service of the crypto world is under attack.

From Russia Without Love

Last Sunday a group of brave souls strolled the wide avenues of Moscow, flags rippling in the wind. “Freedom or death,” their voices rang out and echoed off looming Soviet-era buildings. Soon, riot police arrived, and even though the protesters were properly permitted, over 20 were arrested.

Russia's recent ban of Telegram has caused an uproar and has landed the messaging service in countless newspapers around the world.

Russia's attack is straightforward enough. They want Telegram's encryption keys so they can view messages sent by users. Telegram refuses to give them the keys.

Russia isn't the only authoritarian regime blocking Telegram, Iran has jumped on the bandwagon too, and the service has been blocked in China for years.

People protest Russia’s decision to ban Telegram in Moscow. (Source: Grigoriy Sisoev / Sputnik via rt.com)

As dramatic as protests and being on the wrong side of Putin can be, there is a quieter, but much greater threat to Telegram that is looming in the shadows: trademark infringements.

Fighting to Get the 'Gram'

Earlier this month Telegram's lawyers filed a claim for trademark infringement against Florida-based blockchain company Lantah. The issue comes down to the Trademark and use of the word 'Gram'.

Cryptocurrency companies will have to protect their trademarks in court.

Telegram is claiming that they are already using the name 'Gram' for their own cryptocurrency that will launch in towards the end of this year. At the same time, Lantah is using the name 'Gram' for its cryptocurrency currently in pre-ICO. Telegram is fighting back for a name it believes it has a right to. According to the filing:

Lantah’s use of ‘gram’ for a cryptocurrency will inevitably cause a likelihood of consumer confusion, harm the goodwill in Telegram’s service mark, and cause confusion as to the source, origin, and/or sponsorship of Telegram’s cryptocurrency services.

No decision has been reached and while Telegram's position looks to be on solid ground, if they were to lose, a small cryptocurrency startup would end up causing more disruption to the value of Telegram than Russia's ban by delaying or even stopping Telegrams plans to launch the Gram in the 4th quarter of this year.

In the cryptocurrency space, a token or coin’s name is extremely important.

With all the new cryptocurrencies popping up in the last year or so (the latest count is 1,835), it's not surprising that trademark infringement cases are becoming more common. In April, Chinese internet giant Alibaba filed a case against the Dubai-based cryptocurrency known as “Alibabacoins” and Vice Industry Token, a porn cryptocurrency company, is taking Vice Media to court over trademark issues.

The lesson here is that if you are involved in the red-hot cryptocurrency space then you need to lawyer up, trademark your name and fight to keep it. A single well-positioned lawsuit can cause more damage than the burly, bare-chested fury of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Joseph Christian writes for the Alpha Token Foundation which is dedicated to using blockchain-powered technology and cryptocurrency to build a transparent and secure digital ecosystem where content consumers, creators and advertisers can receive the fair value of their digital assets.