Blockchain strategy of the German government: Blockchain to be tested as evidence
On 18.09.2019, the German government published the announced strategy paper on the use of blockchain technology [German]. The agenda focuses on
- how and when the public administration can pilot new digital use-cases;
- how, in the financial sector, the way can be paved for electronic securities and payment services without circumventing the primacy and stability of the euro;
- how blockchain-based applications can be implemented in the energy industry; and
- how the technology can be implemented in an ecologically sustainable way, i.e. how energy consumption in so-called mining – the calculation and publication of transactions on the blockchain – can be reduced or neutralised.
1.Use-cases outside state infrastructure
For the international economy outside the financial sector, it is particularly interesting that the German government wants to support the standardization of blockchain technology at the European level in order to create interfaces and increase investment security.
The Federal Government refers to the cooperation with the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) and various ISO working groups in ISO/TC 307 “Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies” on topics such as interoperability, IT security and “Smart Contracts and their application” for the verification of contracting parties and the enforcement of smart contracts. A working group of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) is also working on the subject.
From the point of view of the Federal Government, one possible area of application is, in particular, increasing transparency, efficiency and security along value chains. Here, blockchain technology is intended to enable smart contract design in company cooperation and process data transfer. The Federal Government therefore announces that it will evaluate how blockchain applications can facilitate sustainable consumption decisions through transparent, complete and trustworthy information along the supply chain and contribute to safety, e.g. in the food chain.
Finally, the announced examination of the interplay between blockchain technology and the requirements of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) should also be of high practical relevance for participants in commercial traffic.
2. Application in the field of procedural law
As a law firm specializing in litigation, we have noted with interest that the Federal Government also wishes to examine the use of blockchain technologies in the context of evidence.
Because of the fundamental irreversibility of data collection and the immutability of data and documents with hash values stored on the blockchain, the government is considering recognizing the technology in the production of evidence. Judicial evidence collection is expressly mentioned, so that Sec. 415 et seq. of the German Civil Procedural Code (ZPO) may soon be supplemented by the legislator.
Kim Lu and Dong Ning reported simultaneously with the publication of the German Blockchain strategy paper on Managing IP that the Chinese Internet Courts react positively to the use of Blockchain technology as evidence. Since the Supreme People’s Court of China approved “electronic data submitted by the parties concerned if collected through electronic signature, trusted timestamping, hash value verification, blockchain and other evidence collection […]” before the Internet Courts in 2018, the Internet Courts in Hangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou have meanwhile launched their own blockchain platforms.
We are curious to see whether a similar change will take place in Germany as well. In its resolution of 03.10.2018 (P8_TA(2018)0373, para. 22), the European Parliament had already recommended the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) in the area of patent protection.
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On 18.09.2019, the German government published the announced strategy paper on the use of blockchain technology [German].
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