Sat. Jan 1st, 2022
    TON, Free TON, TON Labs, New TON

    Lenta.ru published an article with the punchy title “Without the Right to an Exclusive. Why TON Labs co-founder Alexander Filatov is using Pavel Durov’s brand”. Free TON House has figured out what claims are made against Alexander Filatov, why they arose, and what he thinks about it.

    The Emergence of TON

    To better understand the situation, it is worth looking at the history of the emergence of TON.

    In 2017, Pavel Durov announced raising investments to launch the Telegram Open Network, TON for short, a next-generation blockchain. In 2018, it was reported that the project had raised more than $800 million, including from big businessmen. Later, an additional $1.7 billion was added, while many potential investors were turned down for accepting funds from them.

    Durov’s project, called TON, has attracted worldwide attention. It seemed that a blockchain could emerge, capable of competing not only with BTC and ETH but also with traditional payment systems such as Visa and Mastercard, due to the huge user base of the Telegram messenger. The new blockchain cryptocurrency was to be named Gram.

    In 2019, TON Labs, which consisted of a group of developers and worked on a toolkit for programmers based on the TON blockchain, joined the work on TON.

    However, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nipped the TON project in the bud: it banned the Gram issue, recognizing it as a security. As a result, there were numerous courts where the project founder Pavel Durov tried to prove the opposite, that Gram is not a security, but a cryptocurrency. 

    Eventually, TON could not be defended, and Telegram announced in May 2020 that it was shutting down the project, stressing that it would have nothing to do with it in the future. 

    At the same time, two projects appeared based on TON, which later began to develop in parallel.

    Free TON and New TON — Parallel Universes

    The Free TON blockchain was launched on May 7, 2020. The project currency is TON Crystal. A group of developers is working on the project, including the developers of the TON ecosystem — the TON Labs team. The distribution of blockchain tokens is done according to a meritocratic principle through contests and partnerships.

    To date, the bridge with Ethereum is fully operational in Free TON, and the work on the bridge with Polkadot is being completed. Also, exchanges, NFT platforms, and other components of the DeFi platform were created in the ecosystem, as well as farming was launched and the original Whitepaper of the project was created.

    In parallel with Free TON, another project based on the Telegram legacy emerged — the New TON blockchain. We have already talked about it in the article about cryptocurrencies of famous social networks. The project is a continuation of work on the TON test network, launched back in the days of Telegram. To date, New TON has been renamed The Open Network.

    The blockchain is being developed by independent developers who emphasize that they have nothing to do with Telegram and do not work for this company. They didn’t want to forget about the TON project and have been working on further improvements to the ecosystem since May 2020. Blockchain-based cryptocurrency TON Coin was issued, and bridges with other blockchains and other components of the DeFi system are being developed. Coin distribution in the project follows the PoW principle. To date, most of the tokens have already been mined and are in the hands of a small group of people.

    “TON Blockchain Community is exactly the group that started New TON. I was also there for a while, then I left, and we started working on Free TON. […] Currently, 98% of all these tokens are distributed across 70,000 wallets that are linked”, shared Sergey Shashev, co-founder of Broxus, the story of how he and his team joined the Free TON project. Sergey has believed in the Free TON project, considering it more promising, and together with his team has been developing DeFi applications for it for about a year.

    As a result, just over a year after the TON project closed, there are two blockchain projects — The Open Network and Free TON, which emerged from the TON developments and are developed by different teams.

    Conflict Over the Name “TON”

    An article on Lenta.ru states they have information that an agreement was signed in 2019 between TON Ventures LTD, whose subsidiary is TON Labs, and Telegram that allows TON Ventures LTD to use the name “TON” and prohibits registering the trademark in its name and creating other logos based on it.

    However, according to Lenta.ru, TON Ventures LTD registered the “TON” trademark in Europe and the USA in September-October 2020, thereafter becoming the sole owner of the brand.

    Lenta.ru further talks about the claim of one of the wallet developers (without naming him) that TON Ventures LTD bans them from using the prefix “TON” for the wallet name, and appealed to Apple in this regard.

    This behavior of TON Ventures LTD contradicts the decentralization principles promoted by TON and supported by Free TON, Lenta.ru emphasizes.

    At the same time, Telegram owners do not accuse TON Ventures LTD of its actions and have not commented on the situation in any way.

    Later it became known that the claims of TON Labs appeared against the TON Foundation, which emerged relatively recently and positions itself as the only non-fake continuation of TON. They began to write about it in various chats and forums.

    Comments by Alexander Filatov

    Alexander Filatov, the co-founder of TON Ventures LTD and TON Labs, explained his companies’ actions in one of the Telegram community chat channels as follows:

    “The facts are that a TON Labs group company (Ton Venture Studio) has indeed signed a license agreement for the TON brand with Telegram. At the time, Telegram had no registered rights to the TON brand (which for some reason was not mentioned by Lenta.ru). Therefore, the contract was of the nature of the intentions. 

    For reasons known to all, Telegram, unfortunately, has not started registering the rights to the TON brand. 

    By that time, TON Labs had developed a full-fledged operating system for TON (TON OS), which was several times larger in code size than TON itself. As a company with institutional governance and funding from venture capitalists, TON Labs could not afford to have TON-branded products without protection and began registering the TON trademark, about which it notified Telegram. 

    In May 2020, Free TON was launched as a decentralized project and the status of TON Labs changed to a key developer of a decentralized network. TON Labs then entered into negotiations with the Linux Foundation and later with the Free Software Foundation about transferring the trademark rights to them and cooperating in the field of further management decentralization. 

    These associations are the world’s most recognized trademark and other assets holders of decentralized open-source projects”.

    At the same time, Alexander Filatov is increasingly thinking about rebranding and dropping the reference to “TON” in the name of the already well-known Free TON blockchain, which he shared in the Free TON News channel chat:

    “Talking to exchanges, potential large partners, etc. I am sensing that they are just not willing to “touch” the TON legacy with SEC story. Unfortunately.

    The rebranding decision is obviously not easy. There are tons of resources developed in the ecosystem that have a “ton” component. But I am afraid that we will have to take that decision rather sooner than later. Otherwise, we will keep hitting the “glass ceiling” and significantly limit our amazing potential. And assuming they are executed well, rebrandings help to inject new momentum into projects. Plus we are planning to move to the much faster and scalable rust network, which is another reason to move away from TON. Let’s keep discussing this in the weeks to come”.

    ________________________

    Nowhere have we heard any claims from the original actual owners of the “TON” brand, the Telegram team, to its new owners, TON Ventures LTD.

    Also, the Lenta.ru article does not mention the situation in terms of those who are forbidden to use “TON” in the name, nor does it explain their position. It is mainly about the fact that there were some old agreements back when TON was developed, and now they are not respected by one of the parties. 

    However, a lot has changed since then. Telegram is not trying to revive TON or participate in the development of Free TON, other people and companies are in charge of that. 

    It is quite possible that Free TON with a new team will reach the heights of the blockchain industry. And it’s also possible that by that time it will be called differently and the fuss about the name “TON” will be meaningless.

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