A trio from Lancaster University Computer Science have won a prestigious international competition with their prototype of a blockchain based legal contracts system.
Nihir Vedd, Rohan Littler and Will Wilkes won first place at a blockchain challenge organized by Atos, a global tech company that boasts of having some 100,000 employees worldwide.
The competition aimed to explore blockchain tech, with Quo taking the winning prize, described by Rohan Littler to the Lancaster University as follows:
“The application is designed to provide an extremely easy way to deploy legal contracts, removing barriers to entry for individuals, and businesses, that don’t have the resources to invest in lawyers.”
In particular, the application focuses on prevented forgery or modification to contracts, something which is often a point of contention in courts with a resolution usually costing significant amounts. Littler told Trustnodes:
“The proof of concept was developed using Ethereum due to its ability to deploy smart contracts and execute code in a decentralised manner.
At a high level, Quo provides a series of customisable contract templates for clients, who may easily modify clauses to suit their desires using a simple web-based UI.
Templates will be available for a wide range of scenarios, including freelance work; rental agreements; insurance; and contracts of employment – though in reality the system can support any legal document.
Using Ethereum, signed contracts are deployed to the blockchain in a manner that ensures Quo can guarantee that the original copy can always be confirmed in case of disputes between parties.
For those wanting additional levels of assurance, we also provide escrow and direct payment methods built into the contracts, again using Ethereum.”
We’ll have to wait for the proof of concept to develop further before we can get more clarity on how the excrow and direct payments would work in practice, Littler says:
“As of right now, the system leans more towards improving the process of, and removing the barriers of entry to, legal contracts/agreements, as opposed to offering smart contract code execution as part of a legal agreement.
Internally we use smart contracts to provide the functionality outlined, but the proof of concept doesn’t offer additional smart contract functionality to users.”
It’s an interesting concept. We’ve talked about something like it previously here at trustnodes in the context of Regulatory Technology (RegTech), so seeing it being executed, albeit at a basic level for now, is encouraging.
The idea seems to be that of a website where you choose a contract template, say a rent agreement, modify the necessary terms, then sign it through the blockchain, making it unmodifiable thereafter.
That contract could also include blockchain based payments, with everything easily verifiable, thus avoiding any disputes. Simple goods exchange contracts would also probably benefit from the functionality, while all contracts would probably benefit from the digital signing aspect as it makes forgery very difficult to perform.
It’s probably just the first step in upgrading one of the oldest profession, which still largely operates on a paper based format, giving entrepreneurs plenty of opportunity for efficiency and productivity gains in a run fast, break things and let regulators catch up manner.