Research published by Thomas Reuters shows that Chinese multinational holding conglomerate Alibaba has filed over 10% of the total number of blockchain patent applications last year.
Of the 406 total applications in 2017, Alibaba claims 43 of them, leading China’s growing blockchain intellectual property claims. The data collected also indicates that China is responsible for 56% of applications in 2017, followed by the US with 22%, and shows that the number of blockchain patent filings has increased from just 134 in 2016, to 406 in 2017.
Last week, Alibaba’s payment subsidiary Ant Financial and Alipay revealed their latest blockchain application to ensure the authenticity of rice produced in Wuchang, in northeastern Heilongjiang Province. The project will be carried out in partnership with the municipal government.
Why are blockchain patents so important?
Alex Batteson, an editor in the IP & IT practice area at Thomson Reuters Practical Law, explained why the patent race is crucial to success as it can attract investors by ensuring a business’ intellectual property is legally protected. Batteson sees blockchain as ”the next frontier of financial services technology architecture”, and an attractor of substantial financial investment. He noted that companies are eager to protect their work first as the technology and adoption rates advance.
While China has a blanket ban on cryptocurrency trading and initial coin offering (ICO) fundraising, the country’s blockchain efforts have been significant. President Xi Jinping himself described that the technology is “substantially reshaping the global economic structure“. The US may have more blockchain patents overall but the Asian nation is quickly catching up.
Taiwan-based IP specialist and Eiger Law partner John Eastwood spoke to the Nikkei Asian Review on China’s progress, saying that it will most likely be extremely profitable for local companies to secure as much blockchain-related intellectual property rights as they can. He said, ”Holding several patents helps to give an aura of legitimacy that helps many companies in the blockchain field to attract investors or acquirers.”
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