New data shows that China filed the most blockchain patent applications in 2017.
According to the Financial Times, data from the World Intellectual Property Organization database showed that more than half of the 406 blockchain patent applications filed last year were from China. And of the top nine companies that filed such patents between 2012 and 2017, six were Chinese, with Beijing Technology Development leading the pack.
“Companies are moving fast in order to protect their ideas in new areas of technological development — long before the technology actually goes to market,” said Alex Batteson, editor at Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law.
China filed 225 of the blockchain patents last year and 59 in 2016, followed by the U.S. (91 in 2017 and 21 in 2016) and Australia (13 last year and 19 in 2016).
Among the companies who have filed blockchain patents, Bank of America applied to patent a technology that facilitates “person-to-person alias-based payments." In addition, BT Group is trying to patent a technology that can detect attacks on blockchain, and MasterCard has filed a patent for a blockchain-based method for tracking payments and uploading data on to the blockchain at the point of sale.
While not every patent leads to an actual product or is found to be useful, Thomson Reuters points out that the data shows an increase in the blockchain space, as well as creates barriers to entry.
“Patents are also important for companies to attract all-important investment,” Batteson added. “Investors need to know that a business owns and can capitalize on the intellectual property and will not face interference from other parties claiming ownership.”
Patents specific to cryptocurrencies — which are not included the blockchain category — rose 16 percent in 2017. But China has been less active in bitcoin and cryptocurrency applications, where the top filers over the past five years were the U.S. and European companies including IBM (54), the Netherland’s Gemalto (35), Intel (34), Thomson Licensing (31) and Amazon Technologies (27).