Photo credit: Mike Mozart/ Flickr

Bank of America obtained more patents last year than any other year in the history of the company.

In 2019, the company obtained 418 patents, a 31% increase over the prior year. According to the bank, patents protect the bank’s tech investments.

“Patents are not always about excluding others from using [the technology]; oftentimes, patents are a vehicle to help industries coalesce around certain standards,” said Keith Agisim, senior vice president and associate general counsel for global technology and operations and global intellectual property at Bank of America.

“Every new capability that we create for our clients is dependent on technology, whether it’s expanding new capabilities for [digital assistant] Erica, adding mobile functionality for corporate clients through CashPro, or improving how we deal with fraud.”

Bank of America spends $10 billion annually on technology, $3 billion of which is on growth initiatives, Agisim added.

Among the patents the bank obtained in 2019, notable areas included: 101 patents dedicated to programming technology, 61 in the information security category, 45  in online/mobile banking, and 40 in artificial intelligence and machine learning. The bank was also granted 15 patents in the realm of blockchain and distributed ledger technology.

The top three inventors at the company —  employees who filed the most U.S. patent applications on behalf of Bank of America — filed 156 applications. The bank’s patent priorities align with its broader innovation agenda, which is centered around client needs, Agisim said.

See also: Mobile users drive deposit growth at Bank of America

Regarding programming technologies, Agisim said the objective is to make the business of banking function “more seamlessly,” irrespective of back-office or front-office areas of focus.

“For example, for some of our processes, clients are required to submit documentation,” Agisim said. “We developed some programming technology to diagnose early on if there are any problems or missing information, or information that doesn’t reconcile, and try to automatically correct that.”

AI and machine-learning patents were geared toward a better mobile banking experience, along with the responsible use of AI, he noted. Meanwhile,  blockchain patents are efforts to lay groundwork in the event the bank finds use cases in the future.

“Our patenting in the [blockchain] space is about being prepared,” Agisim said. “By trying to be innovative by patenting in the space now, we hope that will secure an ability to operate, if in the future we find those opportunities.”

Bank of America’s portfolio includes more than 3,900 patents and applications, created by more than 5,000 inventors from 42 states and 12 countries.

Banking Automation Summit, which takes place from June 1-2 in Miami, is a unique opportunity to share insights, trends, strategies and best practices on back-office automation in financial services with the industry’s leading practitioners. Register here.