The United States House Financial Services Committee (Committee) has pressed Meta (previously Facebook) to share details about its cryptocurrency and blockchain plans following the company's filing of a number of related trademark applications in 2022.
Committee member Maxine Waters sent a letter to Meta Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg, and Chief Operating Chief, Javier Olivan, on 22 January 2024 expressing concerns about Meta's continued interest in the blockchain space.
Meta’s application submissions as of January 22 appear to represent a continued intention to expand the company's involvement in the digital asset ecosystem.
The letter refers to five specific trademark/service mark application serial numbers:
97320155 - relating to online social networking and dating services including financial trades and exchange of digital currencies.
97320153 - relating to the design and development of computer hardware and software services relating to blockchain and cryptocurrency.
97320146 - relating to digital currency services namely the trading of cryptocurrencies on blockchain networks.
97320144 - relating to advertising services via electronic media and virtual or augmented reality networks and blockchain as a service.
97320136 - relating to downloadable software for managing and validating digital currency and downloadable e-wallets.
Ms Waters states in the letter that Meta informed the Committee that there is no ongoing digital asset works.
Meta staff asserted on October 12, 2023, in communications with Democratic Financial Services Committee (Committee) staff that there is no ongoing digital assets work at Meta. Meta staff stated that the company is not currently conducting, nor planning any work on blockchain-based products or stablecoins.
Each of the above trademarks filed by Meta have received a Notice of Allowance (NOA) from the US Patent and Trademark Office which effectively means the application meets registration requirements. Meta now has six months to file a statement that it will use the trademarks, or request a six month extension.
Ms Water's letter raises questions over Meta's involvement in the digital asset space and requests further information relating to Meta's intent to pursue projects relating to Web3, the extent of Meta's research into stablecoins, whether it is looking to adopt decentralised ledger technology, and how Meta's existing technology might allow crypto-related functions in its Metaverse.
the trademark applications described above seem to indicate that Meta has not ceased its activity in digital assets
In 2019, Facebook sought to develop a cryptocurrency (Libra) which it later sold to Silvergate Bank and had previously began works on a digital wallet, which was shut down. Meta has also attracted regulatory scrutiny in Australia, losing an appeal in the Federal Court relating to its conduct of business in Australia in 2022, and facing a class action in the Federal Court for an alleged breach of competition laws in 2020.
As one of the world's largest technology companies, industry insiders will be watching Meta's latest political skirmish for signals as to its future intentions in Web3. Despite Libra's failure, the latest trademark filings suggest that Meta continues to have big ambitions in Web3.
By Steven Pettigrove and Luke Misthos