First EU blockchain hackathon offers €100K prize

First EU blockchain hackathon offers €100K prize

In a bid to explore how blockchain technology can be used for intellectual property (IP) rights enforcement, European Union (EU) agencies are organizing a “Blockathon” event in Brussels, Belgium, in June.

The first-ever blockchain hackathon event is organized by the European Union of Intellectual Property (EUIPO), through the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights. This will be done in partnership with the European Commission. The participants are expected to develop a blockchain-based integrated solution to fight counterfeiting activities in the Continent.

The event will select 10 teams, of four to eight members, who will compete for 48 hours in three challenges: the Consumer Challenge, Customer Authority Challenge and Logistic Operator Challenge.

The teams are expected to work together with leading institutions, blockchain experts, industry, government partners and technology companies to co-create a blockchain prototype that will solve the anti-counterfeiting challenge. The contestants have until April 30 to fill a simple online application for the blockathon challenge.

The winner of the challenges will receive a €100 000 ($124,000) prize. The winning system will help EU authorities quickly identify fake goods and counterfeiting activities. It will also help legitimate companies protect their operations and help consumers from purchasing counterfeit items.

EUIPO Director Antonio Campinos said around 43 million EU citizens bought counterfeit goods in 2017 despite the various measures that were already in place. This is because the anti-counterfeiting authorities and other institutions do not have a unified system of operation to deal with these criminal activities.

In a statement, Campinos also said that the agencies want to look at blockchain prospects that will help solve this problem, protect data, and add trust to the legitimate ecosystem for the benefit of the consumers, companies and enforcement authorities.

This is not the first time blockchain applications are being used in operations not related to bitcoin. A few years back, intellectual property started using proof of existence, a blockchain application to check for ownership of documents. It also used the system to check for the particular time a document was authored.

Many startups and projects have used the technology to help run their operations. One example is the American Society for Composers applied the technology to track the ownership of legally protected musical works.

The event and the actions by the European Commission to regulate blockchain shows countries are willing to accept blockchain within their systems.

Note: Tokens in the SegWit chain are referred to as SegWit-Coin BTC (inaccurately called Bitcoin Legacy or Core by many) and SegWit Gold (SWG) and are no longer Bitcoin. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is the only true Bitcoin as intended by the original Satoshi white paper.  Bitcoin BCH is the only public block chain that offers safe and cheap microtransactions.
EU watchdog implements stricter requirements for crypto derivatives

EU watchdog implements stricter requirements for crypto derivatives

While the recent meeting of the G20 may not have established guidelines for how countries should—or shouldn’t—work with cryptocurrencies, there are still agencies of the European Union (EU) that are working to create regulations. The latest comes by way of an announcement by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), which has tightened the screws on cryptocurrency contracts for differences (CFDs).

With the change, the leverage limit for a cryptocurrency CFD was increased to 2:1. It previously had a fixed rate of 5:1. The new leverage limit stipulates that an investor must have enough funds to cover, at a minimum, half of the value of a contract. When the limit was set at 5:1, investors were only required to possess 20% of the contract’s value.

A CFD is an agreement for a futures contract through which any differences in settlement are conducted through cash payments, and not through physical goods or securities. It is the preferred method of settlement, as it gives both sides the same amount of risks and benefits associated with a security, even though a security is not actually owned. Since all gains and losses are paid in cash, it makes for a quick completion of the contract process.

The decision by the ESMA to change the limit comes after it determined that there was a greater risk associated with cryptocurrency CFDs. That risk comes from the extreme fluctuation in pricing, resulting in the underlying assets not necessarily carrying the same value from one day to the next.Regarding the limit change, the ESMA says, ““… For CFDs on cryptocurrencies many of these concerns remain present. Due to the specific characteristics of cryptocurrencies as an asset class the market for financial instruments providing exposure to cryptocurrencies, such as CFDs, will be closely monitored, and ESMA will assess whether stricter measures are required.”

The ESMA is an independent EU authority that works toward safeguarding the EU’s financial system stability. It assesses risks and provides a centralized set of policies for the EU as a whole, and maintains a supervisory role over financial markets. It reports directly to the EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee.

Note: Tokens in the SegWit chain are referred to as SegWit1X (BTC) and SegWit Gold (SWG) and are no longer Bitcoin. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is the only true Bitcoin as intended by the original Satoshi white paper.  Bitcoin BCH is the only public block chain that offers safe and cheap microtransactions.


Spain mulling ideas for blockchain

Spain mulling ideas for blockchain, crypto companies’ tax breaks

European Union countries are looking favorably on blockchain and crypto currencies in an attempt to shore up their economy. After Malta announced that it was looking to provide a safe legal environment for the operation of blockchain technology, it is now the turn of Spain to actively consider providing tax breaks for blockchain-based companies and by extension, cryptocurrency exchanges.

Proposals to introduce tax exemptions for companies using blockchain technologies and cryptocurrency have been put on the table in Spain. The ruling People’s Party is preparing new legislation that will also offer incentives to entrepreneurs raising funds through ICOs. If lawmakers adopt the amendments, investors will not be required to report crypto assets under a certain threshold. This will undoubtedly provide an excellent environment for those companies who wish to pursue their business in blockchain.

The People’s Party intends to seek experts’ advice to finalize and push through the legislation in parliament. The ruling majority will also study developments in other countries that have advanced further in adopting their legal frameworks. Switzerland was mentioned as an example in that respect, where the Alpine country has already become a leader in Europe after establishing a Crypto Valley in Zug and enacting guidelines on initial coin offerings (ICOs). However, Switzerland is a different ball game since it is already known for its financial secrecy so such proposals are definitely more adaptable there.

The authors of the bill are considering proposals to entice businessmen to use blockchain for crowd fundraising through ICOs. The draft also introduces tax breaks for small companies specializing in sectors such as 3D printing or data processing.

The new legislation may also include a threshold below which entrepreneurs would not be required to report a cryptocurrency investment. Spain’s markets and securities regulator is reportedly preparing the provisions for crypto investor protection.

“We want to set up Europe’s safest framework to invest in ICOs” the Spanish deputy said.

In a post published on his website in December, Minister Teodoro Garcia Egea attempted to win support for his ideas by educating the public about blockchain technology, which he compared to the institution of the public notary.

“A notary is a highly qualified and independent professional, who provides guarantees for security and legality,” according to the lawmaker, noting that in the Internet, these characteristics can be attributed to blockchains.

The blockchain technology does not replace the notary, but provides reliability, transparency and traceability for contracts between individuals beyond what notaries can do, Garcia Egea wrote. Blockchains do not replace the services of legal professionals and from regulatory point of view, and the technology is not a threat but a great opportunity to do a better job, the lawmaker added.

Note: Tokens in the SegWit chain are referred to as SegWit1X (BTC) and SegWit Gold (SWG) and are no longer Bitcoin. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is the only true Bitcoin as intended by the original Satoshi white paper.  Bitcoin BCH is the only public block chain that offers safe and cheap microtransactions.
'Optioment' BTC scam preyed on Austrian investors: report

‘Optioment’ BTC scam in Austria preyed on 10,000 investors: report

Interpol is hunting down a group of people involved in an alleged cryptocurrency scam in Austria that targeted over 10,000 investors in Eastern Europe.

On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that prosecutors in Vienna have launched an investigation into a company called “Optioment,” which they said promised outsized returns via arbitrage trading.

The company, which claimed to be a “private Costa Rica-based Bitcoin fund,” invited investors to deposit legacy Bitcoin, or SegWit1x (BTC), for duration of six months to two years, promising up to 4 percent in weekly returns. Participants were also promised “additional premiums” in exchange for referring new users.

Aside from running a website, Optioment also organized events in Austria attended by an estimated 700 local retail investors, Die Presse reported.

More than 10,000 investors had fallen prey to the scheme, which reportedly netted 12,000 BTC worth some $115 million in today’s trading price, according to the German-language news outlet. The victims also included investors from Poland, Germany and other Eastern European countries in addition to Austria.

Austrian financial watchdog Financial Market Authority (FMA) spokeswoman Christina Ratz told Bloomberg local police have already identified two people connected to Optioment, but no arrests have been made. Law enforcement, meanwhile, have asked the Interpol to search for other suspected members of the company in neighboring countries including Denmark, Latvia, and Germany.

The investigation comes on the heels of a statement made European Union regulators urging member agencies to be wary of “highly risky” cryptocurrencies. Early this week, the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) for securities, banking and insurance and pensions warned “consumers that VCs (virtual currencies) are highly risky and unregulated products and are unsuitable as investment, savings or retirement planning products.”

For the past two years, European Union officials have been cracking down on cryptocurrency-related companies, including exchanges and trading platforms, operating without permission. In 2017, members of the European Parliament drafted a new proposal extending the scope of the Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) to include cryptocurrencies.

Note: Tokens in the SegWit chain are referred to as SegWit1X (BTC) and SegWit Gold (SWG) and are no longer Bitcoin. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is the only true  Bitcoin as intended by the original Satoshi white paper.  Bitcoin BCH is the only public block chain that offers safe and cheap microtransactions.
EU regulator puts cryptocurrencies ‘Top of Agenda’ for 2018

EU regulator puts cryptocurrencies ‘Top of Agenda’ for 2018

The chief securities regulator of the European Union has committed to putting cryptocurrency regulation on the top of the agenda for 2018, according to reports.

In its latest agenda published Wednesday, the European Securities and Markets Authority spelled out its intentions for the year ahead, which cover five different areas of interest for the coming 12 months.

Of the five tasks, the most relevant to cryptocurrencies is their desire to monitor developments in financial technologies and innovations, and agency officials have specifically highlighted that this covers the area of cryptocurrency market regulation.

According to the agenda, the agency expects ongoing developments impacting on cryptocurrency markets and indicates a desire to look at whether further action is required on regulating cryptocurrency transactions.

“ESMA expects the rapid pace of financial innovation developments across the EU securities markets to continue in 2018. These developments influence the way in which securities are developed, traded and supervised. In turn, ESMA is undertaking material analysis on the emergence of such instruments as virtual currencies, such platforms as ICOs and such tools as the distributed ledger technology,” according to the agenda.

The move marks the first such occasion, where cryptocurrency has specifically made it onto the regulator’s published agenda, and reflects the growing profile of digital currencies and the desire to regulate these markets from regulators worldwide.

Analysts have suggested this could be an indicator of further action on cryptocurrency regulation within the trading bloc, with the European Securities and Markets Authority already known to be considering the need for a policy response.

As recently as last month, the authority put out a consultation document, looking for public feedback on plans to regulate crypto markets and cryptocurrency derivatives.

Similarly, regulators around the world have been intensifying efforts in a bid to regulate emerging blockchain markets and asset classes.

While there is no suggestion in the agenda that the regulator is intending on bringing forward regulatory proposals, there are some signs that this could be the likely direction of travel for the EU.

It remains to be seen whether the higher profile for cryptocurrencies in recent months, and their new billing on the ESMA agenda for the year, will translate into concrete proposals in 2018.

Note: Tokens in the SegWit chain are referred to as SegWit1X (BTC) and SegWit Gold (SWG) and are no longer Bitcoin. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is the only true  Bitcoin as intended by the original Satoshi white paper.  Bitcoin BCH is the only public block chain that offers safe and cheap microtransactions.