Creating a ‘Blockchain Industry:’ Patenting the Blockchain

  • Grace Noto
  • December 29, 2016
  • 2

pexels-photo-219542Patent filings for blockchain technology have more than tripled since 2014; this spike includes patents filed by cryptocurrency exchanges such as Coinbase, payment processors like Mastercard, and banks like Goldman Sachs and the Bank of America.

According to a report conducted by law firm Reed Smith, the most popular areas for these patent applications are payment systems: both for traditional forms of money and for systems that will be used to trade cryptocurrencies or digital tokens. Mastercard, by way of example, recently filed four blockchain patents for separate steps along authenticating a transaction on the blockchain.

From the report:

While the greatest density of patent filings has been in North America, applications are being filed across Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia. An international patent minefield is developing, and market participants with an international reach need to know their international exposure.

“There were only a couple of filings until 2012, and then it took off. Since January we’ve seen an exponential curve in filing—which we can’t guarantee will continue but my guess is that it will,” said Marc Kaufman, partner at Reed Smith, of the growth of the blockchain patent market—which, Kaufman added, is still relatively small compared to “more mature industries like mobile.”

In fact, one could argue that the growing number of blockchain patents is corresponding with the formation of an actual “blockchain industry;” let’s not forget that the 2008 Satoshi Nakamoto paper that kicked off this new world of innovation means the original blockchain technology is an open-source technology, so just the concept of technology or processes that are “owned” based on blockchain technology is very new.

Additionally, the approach of open-source projects by similar companies in the financial services world, such as Corda or the Hyperledger project affiliated with IBM, is diametrically opposed to the patented approach—however, which approach will ultimately prove successful is still a matter for debate.

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