With regards to the filing of patents in the virtual currency sector, 2017 turned out to be a busy year. And so far this year the pace seems to have been maintained.
Per an analysis that was conducted by Thomson Reuters China led the world with regards to the number of blockchain patents that were filed. Of the 406 blockchain patents that were filed, 225 of them were from China and this represented approximately 55.4%. The United States was second with 91 patents or 22.4% of the total. Australia was in the third position with 3.2% of the patent which in absolute terms was 13.
Highest number of blockchain patents
The dominance of China was not a surprise since between 2012 and 2017 about two-thirds of the top blockchain filers were Chinese firms. This year it is hard to tell whether the trend will persist since China has imposed a ban on Initial Coin Offerings and cryptocurrencies and this could have an impact on blockchain patent applications.
With regards to the kinds of patents that are being filed, both cryptocurrency-specific and blockchain-specific patents grew in popularity. In 2017 the number of blockchain-specific patents grew by 300% while the number of crypto-specific patents increased by 16%. The total number of cryptocurrency-specific patent applications was 602 last year. This is an indication that despite the instability and volatility associated with virtual currencies many firms see the potential and are still investing in the sector.
While some of the patent application filings indicated that they are not focused on digital currencies that already exist, the technology described could serve as the foundation for future virtual currency projects.
Some of the firms that are leading in the filing of blockchain patents are financial institutions such as Bank of America, Mastercard and JPMorgan. The diversity of the firms showing interest in blockchain technology is however increasing each year and there are now companies which were formed solely for the purpose of researching and developing solutions in distributed ledger technology. This includes companies such as nChain Holdings whose business model revolves around blockchain technology and digital currency technologies.
Firms in industries that have existed for centuries are also starting to get in on the blockchain game and are filing related patents. This includes Chinese insurance firm Zhong An, which is developing several innovative blockchain technologies.
Most impactful patents
Some of most significant blockchain-related patents that were filed last year and early this year includes one filed by U.S. lender Bank of America. The patent application describes an automated virtual currency exchange system which established the best exchange rates between two currencies based on information from external feeds. The lender has plans of offering this technology to enterprises and if it ever comes to fruition could position Bank of America as a global leader in payment processing.
Another significant blockchain patent application was filed by Zhong An and it describes the integration of artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and blockchain technology to enhance food security in China.
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