ENS Founder Prepares for Patent Battle with Unstoppable Domains

The founder and lead developer of the Ethereum Name Service (ENS), Nick Johnson, is gearing up for an intellectual-property dispute with rival Unstoppable Domains. In an interview with CoinDesk, Johnson expressed his determination to defend ENS’s work and the importance of open-sourced code.

The conflict arose when Johnson discovered that Unstoppable had been awarded a patent for innovations that ENS had developed. Concerned that Unstoppable might exploit this advantage, Johnson is contemplating a challenge to the patent. Despite attempts at behind-the-scenes discussions to resolve the matter, no agreement has been reached.

ENS introduces a domain-name protocol that assigns Ethereum users a custom name, like “alice.eth,” replacing the lengthy alphanumeric blockchain address of their crypto wallets. Unstoppable Domains offers a similar service across various protocols.

Johnson emphasized the significance of open-sourced code and expressed his personal investment in the matter. He challenged Unstoppable to provide an “unconditional and irrevocable patent pledge” to solidify their commitment. Unstoppable’s CEO, Matthew Gould, responded by emphasizing the need for collaboration and discussion in an ever-changing industry landscape.

The patent dispute reflects a tension within the blockchain industry regarding the ethos of open-source code. While open-source principles have historically been central to the industry’s development, some companies have resorted to patenting their work and enforcing rights through legal channels.

Despite Johnson’s attempts to find a resolution, the differences between ENS and Unstoppable remain unresolved.


Q: What is the Ethereum Name Service (ENS)?
A: The Ethereum Name Service (ENS) is a domain-name protocol that assigns Ethereum users a custom name, like “alice.eth,” instead of a long alphanumeric blockchain address.

Q: What does Unstoppable Domains do?
A: Unstoppable Domains provides a similar service of assigning human-readable domain names across various protocols.

Q: Why is open-sourced code important?
A: Open-sourced code fosters collaboration, innovation, and transparency within the blockchain industry, allowing for the creation of public goods and shared technology resources.