Matter Labs In Hot Water Over ‘ZK’ Trademark Bid

Rival projects using zero-knowledge technology publicly slammed Matter Labs over the trademark drama.

By: Samuel Haig Loading...

Matter Labs In Hot Water Over ‘ZK’ Trademark Bid

Matter Labs, the team behind the ZkSync Era Layer 2 network, have found themselves at the center of controversy after seeking to trademark the term "ZK", an acronym for zero-knowledge, as intellectual property.

A May 30 joint statement from Starkware, Polygon, and Polyhedra — three teams working on zero-knowledge (ZK)-based solutions — outed Matter Labs for filing to claim “zero-knowledge” as a trademark in nine countries back in February. The companies call on the web3 community to demand that Matter Labs withdraw its trademarks.

“We condemn this behavior in the strongest possible terms, as a transparent attempt by a corporation to claim ownership over something that does not belong to it,” the statement said. “ We speak as some of the original creators of ZK or Zero-Knowledge cryptography… We believe that ZK is a public good that belongs to everyone.”

Zero-knowledge cryptography bolsters the privacy of blockchains by enabling on-chain transaction verification without publicly disclosing data relating to the transactional counterparties. The 2016 launches of the Zcoin and Zcash protocols comprised the first real-world applications of zero-knowledge proofs.

Starkware and Polygon develop ZK-based Ethereum scaling solutions, while Polyhedra offers a ZK-based cross-chain interoperability protocol.

ZkSync Era is currently the ninth-largest Ethereum Layer 2 by total value locked with $867 million, according to L2beat.

Matter Labs’ defense

Matter Labs sought to defend its trademark application via tweet, arguing that trademarks are the only means through which it could guarantee its ability to freely use the term “ZK” for its products that don the two letters in their name.

“A common misconception is that having a trademark means you legally own a particular word or phrase and can prevent others from using it,” Matter Labs continued. “You don’t have rights to the word or phrase in general, only to how that word or phrase is used with your specific goods or services."

Matter Labs added that it is committed to finding a structure for the ZK trademark that benefits everybody building with zero-knowledge technology, even claiming to have reached out to the Ethereum Foundation in a bid to collaborate on establishing a legal framework placing the term “ZK” in the public domain.

“ZK technology, and the term ZK in particular, is and must always remain a public good, freely available to all,” Matter Labs said.

However, many onlookers are unconvinced by Matter Labs’ attempts to assuage the community.

“Why didn't you work with anyone on this collective effort since you filed it in February? ”said Hudson Jameson, VP at Polygon Labs.

“What prevents you from just not paying fees anymore so the Trademark is no longer owned by you, and thus (functionally) part of the ‘public domain’?” asked Micah Zoltu. “I don't believe someone can trademark something that was previously trademarked but ceased to be… It is unclear to me why there needs to be a collective effort here.”

The drama comes after Matter Labs also sought to claim “ZK” as a ticker for its upcoming token drop last week, despite Polyhydra’s token already trading under such.