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Crypto startup creates turmoil with ZK trademark application, Polygon fights back

Crypto startup creates turmoil with a trademark application, Polygon fights back

In a surprising move, Matter Labs, the crypto startup behind zkSync, has filed trademark applications for zero-knowledge (ZK) technology in nine countries. This action has sparked outrage within the ZK community, with Polygon (MATIC) and StarkWare Ltd. leading the charge against Matter Labs.

Notably, a public manifesto, signed by a broad community including ZK technology inventors Goldwasser, now working at StarkWare, and Micali, now working at Algorand (ALGO), and founders of Starkware, Polygon, Polyhedra, and Kakarot, condemns Matter Labs’ actions. The manifesto states, “We believe that ZK is a public good that belongs to everyone.”

What Polygon and other crypto players are saying about ZKSync’s trademark application

In particular, Matter Labs claims it is registering the trademark to “protect the freedom of use of the term ZK” and invites other ZK projects to join this effort. However, Rebecca Rettig, Chief Legal & Policy Officer at Polygon, argues that this is baseless and that everyone can use the term without Matter Labs’ supposed permission.


Essentially, Polygon Labs, known for its open-source contributions like Polygon Plonky2, has been a beneficiary of the collaborative approach in the web3 community. Ironically, Matter Labs’ core “zk” tech stack leverages Polygon Plonky2, which they initially used without proper attribution until called out.

Polygon Labs deliberately chose not to trademark Polygon zkEVM, allowing others to use it freely. This resulted in wide adoption by projects like Immutable zkEVM and Astar zkEVM. They argue that openness is fundamental to Ethereum (ETH) and must be preserved, especially regarding core mathematical principles.

StarkWare, alongside other leading ZK companies and researchers, urges the community to demand that Matter Labs withdraw all their trademark attempts. They believe that by using the legal system to claim a public good, Matter Labs contradicts the ethos of crypto, Ethereum, and its own principles.

Conversely, Matter Labs CEO Alex G. responded to StarkWare’s claims. He maintains that the company is a proponent of the libertarian, cypherpunk ethos and rejects the idea of “Intellectual Property.” He claims that the trademarks are defensive, preventing dishonest actors from misleading customers and confusing their products and services with those offered by Matter Labs.

What does ZK mean, and why is it important

Zero-knowledge (ZK) proof is a cryptographic technique that allows one party to prove knowledge without revealing it. In cryptocurrencies, ZK proofs enable secure and private transactions without disclosing sensitive information on the blockchain.

ZK technology is crucial for layer-2 scalability solutions, such as rollups, which increase transaction throughput on Ethereum. Additionally, ZK proofs enhance privacy in other blockchains by concealing transaction details while maintaining verifiability.

In closing, as the debate continues, the crypto community eagerly awaits the resolution of this contentious issue, which could have far-reaching implications for the future of ZK technology and the web3 ecosystem as a whole.

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