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Matter Labs Withdraws “ZK” Trademark Application Amid Industry Backlash


TLDR

  • Matter Labs, the developer of zkSync, applied to trademark the term “ZK” (short for “zero-knowledge”) in February 2024.
  • The move faced strong opposition from industry leaders and competitors, who argued that ZK technology should remain a public good.
  • Critics, including ZK Proofs co-inventors Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali, condemned the attempt as a violation of crypto, Ethereum, and academic ethos.
  • Following the backlash, Matter Labs decided to withdraw all trademark applications for the term “ZK.”

Matter Labs, the company behind the Ethereum Layer 2 scaling protocol zkSync, recently faced significant criticism from the crypto community after applying to trademark the term “ZK.”

The term, short for “zero-knowledge,” refers to a cryptographic technique that allows one party to prove the truth of a statement to another without revealing any additional information.

In February 2024, Matter Labs filed trademark applications for “ZK” in nine countries, claiming it was an effort to ensure the term could be used freely in the context of their products, such as “zkSync” and “ZK Stack.”

However, the move was met with strong opposition from industry leaders and competitors, who argued that ZK technology should remain a public good accessible to everyone.

A group of prominent figures in the ZK technology industry, including Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali, co-inventors of ZK proofs, published an open letter condemning Matter Labs’ attempt.

The letter, signed by executives from companies like StarkWare and Polygon, emphasized the importance of keeping ZK technology open and accessible, stating that commercializing such a fundamental technology would go against the principles of freedom and openness that the crypto industry stands for.

The signatories argued that ZK technology was the result of collective efforts by researchers and engineers, and that the knowledge should be owned by the community, not a single corporation.

They accused Matter Labs of exploiting the legal system to claim ownership over something that did not belong to them, violating the ethos of crypto, Ethereum, and academia.

Following the intense backlash, Matter Labs announced on June 2, 2024, that they would withdraw all trademark applications for the term “ZK.”

The company acknowledged the difficulty in establishing a group perceived as neutral and fair by the global community, stating that what could have worked for Ethereum might not necessarily work for the entire world.



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