Patents are complex legal documents that are used in modern business for protecting important pieces of intellectual property. While they are applied in pretty much all branches of today’s industry, they are especially popular when it comes to emerging technologies.
As such, many were in a rush to patent as many aspects of the blockchain technology as possible. The result is today’s situation, where all the largest financial services companies in the world are struggling with blockchain patents. Naturally, some are more successful than others, but all of them are in a rush to change and control the new tech.
Blockchain Patenting Game
Blockchain technology is still considered to be in its infancy, but even so, it holds a lot of potential to completely change the way business is done in modern times. It can safely store data, and protect it from being altered and manipulated. As such, it can seriously impact every branch of today’s industries, and at the same time, it continues to constantly grow and evolve.
Whenever a new breakthrough is made, or a new use case is found, large companies return to the struggle of getting a patent for it. Back in 2017, different companies in the United States alone managed to file over 190 blockchain-related patents.
So far, these patents have been split into two different types, or categories — blockchain specific and cryptocurrency specific patents. Cryptocurrency specific patents are mostly owned by crypto startups and individuals, while blockchain specific patents are usually owned by companies like the Bank of America, IBM, and others. Most of such patents are coming from China, which has filed around 600 of them in 2017 alone.
7 Largest Patent-Holding Companies Right Now
There are numerous companies that hold blockchain specific patents in the world, but Nasdaq is currently the only stock exchange among them. It has a market cap of $6.8 trillion, which makes it the second-biggest stock exchange in the world. It also makes it one of the most important adopters of this technology on this list.
The company filed a patent for an exchange system based on blockchain technology back in 2016. They also filed one for a blockchain-based data matching system recently. The company is using this technology in order to create a new cloud platform based on the blockchain, called Linq. The platform would combine Nasdaq’s exchange with the financial network of Citi Group in order to allow investors to trade securities.
All of this is being done under the supervision of Chain, another blockchain firm which is based on the cloud technology.
Officially, Qualcomm describes itself as a mobile tech firm. However, many have an alternative description for them, which is “patent trolls”. These are firms that are filing patents only so that they can license them and demand a payment from other companies that wish to use them. Apple is one of the firms that seemingly fell into this trap, and is currently suing Qualcomm because they demand a percentage of Apple’s iPhone sales.
PateSnap claims that Qualcomm has more than 46,000 patents at the moment, with 100,000 being still in form of an application. Most of them are in the area of digital information transmission, which also includes blockchain technology.
Next, we have Coinbase, the leading crypto exchange, which is also based in the US. Apart from being the largest exchange, Coinbase is also a leader among the exchanges in regards to the number of filed patents. Many would describe the Exchange’s relationship with patents as ‘complicated’. This is due to the fact that they even decided to sign a Patent Pledge, which forbids them to use patents against firms with fewer than 25 employees.
Additionally, the exchange’s CEO, Brian Armstrong, explained their decision to patent blockchain. He claims that the Bitcoin community was created on the idea of openness, as well as that of decentralization. Because of this, patenting this technology is not exactly the right way to go. Still, the creation of a tech business cannot be done without obtaining patents, which is why the exchange does it anyway.
Coinbase simply wants to protect itself from patent trolls such as Qualcomm.
Fidelity is also actively working on patenting as much of the blockchain as possible. Thanks to their efforts and careful calculations, the company is currently managing around $6.9 trillion in customer assets. This makes Fidelity the fourth largest company when it comes to managed capital.
They also recently partnered up with Coinbase, meaning that their users will likely have the ability to combine their Fidelity investments with their crypto investments.
Next, there is Mastercard. This is one credit card company that takes blockchain development extremely seriously. They offer two different services at the moment, which are Smart Contract API and Blockchain Core API. Smart Contract API allows users to write their own smart contracts, while the other one allows businesses to use Mastercard’s network for processing blockchain-based transactions.
These transactions are often much faster thanks to Mastercard’s own, specially developed new technology.
The company filed a patent back in July of this year, and it concerns a new way to process cryptos via the same framework that is being used for fiat currencies. This would speed up transactions even more, while it would simultaneously reduce the risks since this technology has had decades to properly develop and grow to perfection.
Nearing the end of the list, we have IBM. IBM has a long history of investing in the blockchain, and they share the second place regarding the number of patents with previously discussed Mastercard. In fact, IBM has filed around 9,043 patents in 2017 alone. They also cover the new method of safely accepting payments from untrusted parties via the blockchain.
The company’s Blockchain Platform has more than 400 customers at the moment, and it relies on special tools used for creating a business-specific blockchain. Their most recently accepted patent proposes a new system that would make database managing easier and more efficient. Of course, it would be done via the blockchain.
7. Bank Of America
While this list has had some firms with an impressive number of patents, none of them has filed more patents in 2017 than the Bank of America itself. The company’s CTO, Catherine Bessant, recently stated that they have just under 50 patents in the blockchain technology.
This is all a part of their plan to acquire as much intellectual property as possible. They understand that owning the right technology will give them the competitive edge in the world of finances. As such, the blockchain is likely at the top of their wish list.
Despite this, the Bank remains firmly against Bitcoin, and they even banned its purchase earlier this year. This will likely remain so until they can create their own crypto wallet and find a way to charge their own fees for using digital currencies. Obviously, despite the BTC ban, they are still working hard on entering this space, and they even filed a patent on a new crypto transformation system about a year ago.
Which Company Has Filed The Most Patents?
As mentioned before, firms that are the most interested in filing blockchain specific patents are usually those from the financial services industry. According to data from Envision IP, around 124 blockchain patents in the US are filed by only 5 firms. The biggest ones among them are Fidelity, Bank of America, and Mastercard — all of which are financial services companies.
While it might seem strange that companies like Facebook and Google have not entered the rush with the same enthusiasm, there is a reason for that too. The reason is that this technology is currently in a state that best suits banks and credit card companies. In its current form, it is perfect for keeping records and sending payments, which is exactly what firms like these need.
*This post is credited to BitcoinExchangeGuide