Berns Weiss LLP appeases Ethereum Trust critics

Jeffrey Berns of Berns Weiss LLP is now the latest cryptocurrency analyst to make statements appeasing critics of the Ethereum Investment Trust.

The managing partner of the law firm, speaking with CoinDesk on the Ethereum trademark controversy, stated concern whether “this investment trust is attempting to use the ethereum name deceptively to stimulate investment in a competing technology.”

The Ethereum Trust derives value from the Ethereum Classic blockchain (ETC), and not Ethereum (ETH), leading some Ethereum Foundation supporters to argue that the branding violates the Foundation’s trademark on the Ethereum name.

Back in September, Berns Weiss published an essay, cross-posted to the ETHnews publication, concluding that the Ethereum Classic community was neither violating the Ethereum Foundation’s copyright on the source code nor the trademark on the Ethereum branding. The firm stated, “Ethereum Classic has maintained the LGPL license and conditions.”

“After all,” continued Berns, “the Ethereum Classic blockchain, which the Ethereum community has effectively abandoned, was originally called Ethereum. The fact that the new, post-hard fork chain is also named Ethereum is hardly the fault of the Ethereum Classic community.”

That such reasoning should not, however, be applied to products of the Ethereum Classic blockchain amounts to a logical inconsistency. As Berns argued previously, the Ethereum Foundation abandoned the immutable blockchain. This was done in favor of reimbursing token holders of developer Slockit’s failed DAO product.

Confusion arising from the hard fork, where the new fork was also branded “Ethereum,” seems hardly the fault of Ethereum Classic supporters or Digital Currency Group, owner of Grayscale Investments.

Implicitly, Grayscale’s marketing of their product as “Ethereum Trust” argues that Ethereum Classic products have an equal or greater claim to being designated Ethereum technology as does ETH. If the Foundation wishes to make a distinction between the chain they control and the immutable Ethereum chain they willingly abandoned, an argument can be made that it is only fair that the Foundation themselves be responsible for rebranding.

The Ethereum Foundation has no legal argument to make against the Classic community for trademark violation. This is a major inconvenience to the Foundation, in light of their decision to sell away upwards of 90% of the ETC tokens in their possession, thereby relinquishing influence over the immutable blockchain.

One explanation for why cryptocurrency analysts like those at Berns Weiss are switching sides in the trademark debate is that Ethereum supporters dissuade arguing for the other side by engaging in verbal abuse on social media. Ad hominem attacks directed against supporters of the Ethereum Investment Trust coerce neutral parties into attempting appeasement and placating hysterics.

An Ethereum Foundation supporter named John Lilic, a Consensys LLC member and co-founder of a coding school for girls in Afghanistan, has responded to the Ethereum Trust issue with exaggerated language in an attempt to substantiate his arguments. “When $etc maximalism happens,” he wrote in a Twitter post, “and tries to justify @barrysilbert TM infringement for personal profiteering fund #ProtectEthereum.” Lilic accuses DCG of “crony capitalism,” which he defines as a “broadly applied term describing scum bag behavior.”

Prior to the recent statements by Berns Weiss, Input Output Hong Kong co-founder Charles Hoskinson also sided with Ethereum supporters on the trademark controversy. Hoskinson has pledged to build a custom wallet for Ethereum Classic, along with developing a hybrid proof-of-work and proof-of-stake consensus mechanism, called “twinchains.” Now he uses the good will of the ETC community as leverage to win favor with the Ethereum Foundation.

In conversation with Lilic, Hoskinson tagged Grayscale founder Barry Silbert on Twitter, dictating to Digital Currency Group that the trust “should be renamed.” Meanwhile, Hoskinson socialized with Ethereum Foundation head Vitalik Buterin, despite having recently called ETH abominable in the Ethereum Classic Slack channel. Hoskinson met with Buterin in Zurich, Switzerland on January 17, putting his arm around the leader of the Ethereum Foundation in an ill-timed photo opportunity.

Hoskinson’s unilaterally declaring “peace” with ETH opens the doors for business partnerships between the Ethereum Foundation and IOHK. The company already does business with the DASH, LISK and ADA blockchains, making it strategically ineffectual for the Classic community to trust the company as a representative. Nevertheless, IOHK presumes to employ a designated ETC “community manager” and sponsors his weekly podcast called “Let’s Talk ETC.”

BFFs Vitalik Buterin (Ethereum Foundation) and Charles Hoskinson (IOHK)

In the face of opposition presented by Hoskinson and Berns, both former allies in the Ethereum Classic intellectual property debate, Silbert contends that while there are two webpages advertising the trust, it is not about to be launched. “[T]here is literally nothing to rename,” he told CoinDesk.

Before DCG will consider giving their product the green-light, several lingering issues with the ETC protocol must be resolved. These include reining in the monetary supply and placing an overall cap on ETC tokens. Ethereum Classic developers Igor Artamonov, Matt Mazur and Avtar Sehra will hold a meeting later today to discuss the current state of the ETC monetary strategy.

This meeting is being hosted by ETC China’s Roy Zou and will respond to concerns by investors, miners and developers in Chinese-language regions. Whether the current trajectory of the monetary strategy will recognize Digital Currency Group’s investor-facing concerns, or side with IOHK in opposition to DCG and in appeasement of ETH supporters, should be of particular interest to Ethereum Classic investors.