10 Things a General Counsel Needs to Know about Blockchain

This post is a re-print of an article co-written by Bertrand Alexis (an old friend from our times in Qatar) , and myself and first published online on ACC Docket on August 17, 2017.

You’ve likely heard about bitcoin by now, especially given its ballooning value from US$500 to US$3,000 — all within one year — and similar cryptocurrencies like Ethereum. You probably know that blockchain is the underlying technology for bitcoin and that the technology can potentially change the world. There is also something called smart contracts. As an in-house lawyer, you should be prepared for when your CEO asks for cost reductions by applying blockchain technology and smart contracts.

In other words, general counsel will, sooner or later, face the following question: Why should the general counsel spend time, effort, and money to determine whether blockchain and/ or smart contracts could be right for the company? Let’s see what answers we can give.

1. Underlying technology for bitcoin, but so much more

We know that blockchain entails a variety of vertical applications across many industries. Bitcoin is only one such application. The blockchain applications which currently hold the most promises are (1) around the supply chain to ensure the authenticity, origin, tracking, and viability of products along the supply chain (also addressing counterfeiting/ fraud risk and compliance concerns); (2) in the fintech industry; (3) around digital identity; (4) in the healthcare industry such as medical records, clinical trials, and prescription drug monitoring; and (5) real estate title and intellectual property rights. But there is so much more. Will this affect your business?