Intellectual property rights and electronic voting based on blockchain

30 January 2023 - Published by Evite van Winkoop
The BLING project aims to investigate to what extent the public sector within the North Sea region can use blockchain technology to develop services to the public. The County Administrative Board of Skåne has focused on exploring how blockchain can be used to develop the dialogue between the public and the public authority, more specifically on e-voting.

However, public authorities using blockchain is somewhat unchartered waters in Sweden. There is little to no use of blockchain among Swedish public authorities. Due to this being a somewhat new area, it poses questions in several areas, one being intellectual property rights. To answer this the County Administrative Board of Skåne decided to consult experts on the matter. With their help a report was produced that investigated: which international IP-rules would apply if the County Administrative Board decided to develop its own model for e-voting; could the County Administrative Board potentially protect a model for e-voting, or would it be bound under the principle of publicity?

The question of determining which intellectual property rights would be applicable in the case of the county administrative board is not an easy one. Using an e-voting model would require software which in turn can be eligible for different types of intellectual property rights. In the report one can read how experts explore how intellectual property rights could apply if the e-voting model would be based on technical invention, copyright protection and what it would mean to apply “open source” software to develop the blockchain model.

Seeing that the County Administrative Board is a public authority it abides by the principle of publicity. A principle enshrined in one of Sweden’s fundamental laws, meaning that everyone is entitled to access / read documents that are held by public authorities. However, there are limitations to that principle. For instance, working documents such as drafts are not an official document. Furthermore, some official documents contain information that are classified as a secret. The principle of publicity does not automatically result in the County Administrative Board cannot protect the model for e-voting. The report digs deeper into the principle of publicity and what it would entail for the County Administrative Boards potential e-voting model.

In summary, there are several questions that would need be further investigated prior to deploying an e-voting solution. The expert recommends conducting a freedom-to-operate (FTO), looking into possibilities to protect the model for e-voting and discuss the mode for e-voting itself. Having said that, set out a good starting point in clearing out some questions marks regarding intellectual property rights regarding electronic voting based on blockchain.

Click here to read the report.