The Technion Israel Institute of Technology Sues Own Staff for Zero-Knowledge Proof IP Violation
A good share of the world is not really very enthusiastic about zero-knowledge proofs protocols like the ones used in cryptos such as Monero and Zcash. This technology can be used to cloak transactions and make them impossible to track, so several people are afraid that it can be used in money laundering.
However, this kind of technology is also very valuable so, at the same time, it can be worth millions, which is why the Israel Institute of Technology, which is a well-known university since 1912, has filed a lawsuit against its professors affirming that he was engaged in creating this kind of protocol.
The lawsuit was filed in the Haifa District Court against Eli Ben-Sasson, a computer science professor at the institute. According to it, he was guilty of violating the intellectual property regulations of the company.
Ben-Sasson was also known for being the chief scientist and co-founder of Starkware, a blockchain technology startup in which he developed the protocol. Now, the company wants 50% of the company’s shares because he allegedly violated their IP laws by creating the protocol in a private institution.
According to the university, the professor hid his company and the work at first and never asked for approval of the university in order to commercialize this technology. He denied all accusations and affirmed that his company never used any kind of technology that belonged to the university in which he worked. Therefore, they were not entitled to the shares of his work.
However, the company has affirmed that if they reach a compromise, the company have decided to give up the ownership of some shares, but this is only in case a deal between the two parties is actually struck before they have to go to court to decide the outcome.
The Technology In Dispute
Starkware is currently creating a technology that will help privacy blockchains based on the STARK technology to be scaled. It will provide zero-knowledge cryptographic tools that can be used to make the transactions secure and efficient while maintaining privacy.
Alessandro Chiesa, from UC Berkeley, Michael Riabzed (a doctoral student at the institute) and Uri Kolodny are also partners of the company which is being sued.
The company has been pretty successful so far. It has recently completed a $6 million USD funding round last year. The round had the participation of Vitalik Buterin from Ethereum, Arthur Breitman from Tezos, the Bitmain company, Pantera Capital, Polychain, Floodgate, Linda Xie, Fred Ehrsam, Metastable and many others.
After that, the company was also able to finish a $30 million equity round with many investors, including Intel Capital, Sequoia, Atomico, DCVC, Wing, Consensys, Coinbase Ventures, Multicoin Capital, Collaborative Fund, Scalar Capital and Semantic Ventures. This shows just how valuable this technology is and why the university is after it.