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ZK Trademark Controversy Unfolds

zkSync's efforts to trademark "ZK" have raised a ruckus.
William M. Peaster William M. Peaster May 30, 20241 min read
ZK Trademark Controversy Unfolds

Leading zero-knowledge (ZK) crypto projects, including Polygon and StarkWare, called for zkSync to withdraw its "ZK" trademark applications ahead of its planned token launch.

What's the scoop?

  • zkSync, developed by Matter Labs, reportedly plans to launch its token soon with "ZK" as its ticker. This choice has sparked tension with Polyhedra Network, builders of the zkBridge project, which has previously used the $ZK ticker.
  • Today, Polyhedra Network accordingly confirmed it was switching from "ZK" to "ZKJ" (symbolizing "ZK Join") for its listing on exchanges. With that change, Polyhedra, Polygon, StarkWare, and Kakarot released a joint statement denouncing Matter Labs' attempt to trademark "ZK” as intellectual property in 9 countries.  
  • The signatories, including notable figures like Polygon cofounder Sandeep Nailwal and StarkWare CEO Eli Ben-Sasson, argued that "ZK" should remain a public good, accessible to all, rather than a trademarked term owned by a company.
  • Alex Gluchowski (Matter Labs CEO) defended the trademark filings as defensive measures to protect users from dishonest actors. He reiterated Matter Labs' commitment to open-source principles and the possibility of a collaboration with the Ethereum Foundation to create a legal framework ensuring public domain use of "ZK."
  • Rebecca Rettig (0xPolygon Labs Chief Legal & Policy Officer) criticized the trademark attempt, explaining that trademarks protect company brands, not public goods. She argued that seeking a trademark on a widely used technical term like "ZK" is contrary to the open-source nature of crypto.

Bankless take:

The ZK community's call to action highlights the importance of maintaining public access to foundational terms in crypto. As the situation unfolds, it will be worth tracking how Matter Labs responds and whether it can actualize a consensus that aligns with the broader Ethereum ecosystem's collaborative ethos.

William M. Peaster

Written by William M. Peaster

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William M. Peaster, Senior Writer, has been with Bankless since January 2021. Immersed in Ethereum since 2017, he writes the Metaversal newsletter on the onchain frontier, covering everything from AI projects to crypto games, as the team’s lead NFT analyst. With a background in creative writing, he writes fiction and publishes art on Ethereum in his free time. He lives in Washington.

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