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Alibaba, IBM Ranked Top Globally for Number of Blockchain Patent Filed

Tech giants Alibaba and IBM are vying for the top spot on a new list that ranks global entities by the number of blockchain-related patents filed to date, published August 31 by iPR Daily.

iPR Daily — a media outlet specializing in intellectual property — says it consolidated data as of August 10 from across China, the EU, America, Japan and South Korea, as well consulting the International Patent System from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

China’s Alibaba only just seals first place, having filed a total of 90 blockchain-related patent applications, whereas IBM has to date filed a total of 89.

In third place is Mastercard — with 80 filings — followed by Bank of America, with 53. Fifth on the new list is China’s central bank, People’s Bank of China (PBoC), which has filed a total of 44 patent applications devoted to its project for central bank digital currency.

As Cointelegraph has reported, WIPO data has previously indicated that the highest number of patent filings for blockchain technology in 2017 came from China, which filed 225 that year as compared with the America’s 91 and Australia’s 13.

China’s embrace of the technology is counterbalanced by an increasingly stringent stance against decentralized cryptocurrencies, which has intensified yet further in recent weeks.

This split position is mirrored by Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma, who has been vocal in his endorsement of blockchain, even while reserving skepticism for cryptocurrencies.

IBM for its part has been steadily expanding its involvement in blockchain across diverse fields, recently signing a five-year $740 million deal with the Australian government to use blockchain and other new technologies to improve data security and automation across federal departments, including defense and home affairs.

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China Extends Crypto-Related Promotion Ban Beyond the Capital

China’s anti-crypto onslaught continues, as a prohibition against commercial venues from hosting crypto-related events has been extended to Guangzhou Development District, local media outlet Jiemian reports August 29.

Guangzhou Development District is a special economic zone in southern China, close to Hong Kong. The district’s Financial Development Bureau reportedly issued a notice of the new ban August 24, warning of the need to “maintain the security and stability of the financial system.”

As reported last week, the move follows an almost identical ban first imposed upon venues in Beijing’s Chaoyang district in mid-August.

China’s has this month redoubled its efforts to crackdown on the domestic crypto space. A spate of fresh measures have targeted communication channels and other “loopholes” through which Chinese investors can gain exposure to Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and crypto trading.

On August 21, the 1-billion-user social media platform WeChat permanently blocked a number of high-profile crypto and blockchain-related accounts that were accused of publishing crypto “hype” in violation of regulations introduced earlier this month. WeChat operator Tencent subsequently issued a statement announcing a ban on crypto trading, with other tech giants also following Beijing’s draconian lead.

China’s ‘Google,’ Baidu, has closed at least two popular crypto-related chat forums, with a notice reportedly informing users that the move comes “in accordance with relevant laws, regulations and policies.”

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba – whose subsidiary Ant Financial runs the popular internet payment app Alipay – has now clarified that it will restrict or permanently ban any accounts it finds to be engaged in crypto trading. On August 24, Alipay had first targeted those accounts using its network to transact in Bitcoin (BTC) over-the-counter (OTC) trades.

On August 24, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) issued its own risk alert against “illegal” ICOs, warning that blockchain and the idea of “financial innovation” are being used to lure investors as a “gimmick” that conceals essentially fraudulent Ponzi schemes.

New measures are also reportedly underway to bolster the “clean-up” of third-party crypto payment channels, including those used for OTC trade. This January, Beijing banned fringe platforms including peer-to-peer (P2P) and OTC resources, tightening a blanket embargo on crypto-to-fiat trading and ICOs in place since September 2017.

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Ant Financial Is Launching a Blockchain App to Tackle Food Fraud

Ant Financial, a payments affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, is poised to launch its own blockchain-as-a-service platform next month, alongside a rice-tracking application intended to tackle counterfeit products.

Announced Tuesday, the firm has partnered with the municipal government of the Chinese city of Wuchang to deploy a consortium blockchain for tracking the entire production process of locally grown rice.

Located in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province, Wuchang is known for the high quality of a specific type of local rice. However, over the past years, news reports have revealed that packages delivered from the region were sometimes mixed with rice of lower quality.

Starting from Sept. 30, every package of “Wu Chang rice” sold by flagship stores on Alibaba’s Tmall e-commerce platform will display a QR code that customers can scan using Alipay to obtain information about the food’s origin.

Ant Financial said its distributed network is deployed among participating nodes including flagship stores’ rice producers, Wuchang’s Bureau of Quality and Technology Supervision, logistics supplier Cainiao and the Tmall platform.

The goal is to create a public ledger that contains unique information for each rice package so that any data discrepancy with the counterfeit products can be easily spotted.

“Consumers will be able to access production and logistics information including where the rice was harvested, which type of seed was used, and other details associated with the harvesting, packaging and transportation of the rice,” the company said in the statement.

Further, Ant Financial said it expects to launch its blockchain-as-a-service platform in September – opening up its blockchain development tools for more enterprises.

In April, Alibaba announced that it was trialing a different blockchain-based supply chain app in order to prevent food fraud. That project is being carried out in partnership with Australian healthcare firm Blockmores and New Zealand dairy product maker Fonterra.

Rice sacks image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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China’s Baidu Joins Tech Giants Tencent, Alibaba in Imposing Fresh Anti-Crypto Measures

Chinese tech giant Baidu has joined Tencent and Alibaba in imposing new anti-crypto measures in line with Beijing’s toughened stance, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports Monday, August 27.

China’s ‘Google,’ Baidu, has closed at least two popular crypto-related chat forums, according to SCMP, with a notice reportedly informing users that the move comes “in accordance with relevant laws, regulations and policies.”

Meanwhile, Tencent –– the operator of the 1-billion-user social media platform WeChat, has reportedly issued a statement announcing its own ban on crypto trading. The platform has said it will monitor daily transactions in real time and block any suspicious transactions accordingly.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba –– whose subsidiary Ant Financial runs the overwhelmingly popular internet payment app Alipay –– has for its part said it will restrict or permanently ban any accounts it finds to be engaged in crypto trading.

All three announcements follow closely upon the heels of last week’s onslaught of toughened anti-crypto measures in China. These included a ban on all commercial venues from hosting any crypto-related events in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, alongside measures targeting communication channels or “loopholes” through which Chinese investors can gain exposure to Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) and crypto trading.

As reported August 21, WeChat permanently blocked a number of high-profile crypto and blockchain related accounts –– including CoinDaily, Deepchain, and Huobi News –– that were accused of publishing crypto “hype” in violation of regulations introduced earlier this month.

On August 24, Alipay announced that it would block those accounts that use its network to transact in Bitcoin (BTC) over-the-counter (OTC) trade, and would further establish an inspection system for “key websites and accounts.” Ant Financial has also reportedly said it plans to conduct a “risk prevention” program intended to educate users about the dangers of false crypto-related “propaganda.”

On August 25, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) issued its own fresh warning declaring that it would be ratcheting up stringent measures against “illegal” ICOs.

According to CT Japan, new measures are also reportedly underway to toughen the “clean-up” of third-party crypto payment channels, including those used by OTC platforms.

This January, a fresh crackdown from Beijing had notably already seen fringe trading platforms including as peer-to-peer (P2P) and OTC resources banned, adding to a blanket embargo on crypto-to-fiat trading and ICOs in place since September 2017.

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China’s Crypto Crackdown Continues — Alipay Bans Bitcoin OTC Accounts

The most recent round of China’s crypto crackdown has continued, with the Alipay mobile payment processing service banning accounts that are affiliated with over-the-counter (OTC) Bitcoin trading. This news comes via a report from Beijing News, who broke this news in the early morning on August 24th.

The payment processing service in question is the Hangzhou-based (China) Alipay, which is owned by the multi-national conglomerate that is the similarly-named Alibaba, one of the most influential and valuable companies in the world. According to the aforementioned news report, Alipay will now be putting restrictions, or even outright banning accounts that propagate OTC cryptocurrency trading.

Additionally, to prevent future occurrences of OTC trading on the payment platform, Alipay will reportedly keep a close eye on suspicious accounts, while also installing an inspection system for “key websites and accounts” as CoinTelegraph puts it.

While Alipay may seem like a cumbersome method of cryptocurrency trading, after the Chinese government banned crypto exchanges from providing service to Chinese citizens, committed traders had to get creative, hailing in a short era of back-alley transactions and the like.

Red Li, the co-founder of 8Btc, a popular China-based community of crypto and blockchain enthusiasts, confirmed this restriction, relaying the news on his Twitter account.

Ant Financial, which runs Alipay, see “virtual currency trading” as a large risk to its users, hence why the firm hasn’t made a foray into offering crypto exchange services. Additionally, the report added that the firm has planes to “resolutely” strike down accounts that are suspected for virtual currency-related transactions or business operations.

Along with restricting such accounts, Ant Financial added that it will create a “risk prevention education” module for its users, in a bid to “remind users not to be deceived by various false propaganda, to recognize the risks of virtual currency transactions, and to avoid the possible losses suffered.”

China’s Relentless Crypto Aversion

It has become apparent that this move is just another one of the Chinese government’s attempts to stave off the propagation of cryptocurrencies, which they evidently see as a threat to China’s traditional systems. As reported by Ethereum World News, China’s National Fintech Risk office recently identified 124 cryptocurrency exchange platforms that were still available for Chinese citizens.

As China has banned overseas cryptocurrency exchanges time and time again, the country’s firewall quickly swallowed up access to these sites. Along with banning the aforementioned platforms, the governmental organization also noted that it plans to introduce monitoring systems to ensure no foreign exchanges sneak under China’s ‘great firewall’.

In related news, Chinese technology giant Tencent banned over eight crypto-centric news outlets on its WeChat mobile platform, which has become a primary mode of communication in the Asian region. Citing new governmental regulations, Tencent noted that it banned these accounts due to suspicions of “publishing information related to initial coin offerings (ICOs),” along with spreading crypto-related hype.  Last but not least, Beijing’s Chaoyang district has also revealed that it has banned local hotels, shopping malls and office buildings from hosting crypto-related events.

While one of the world’s largest economies still seems to have an aversion towards cryptocurrencies, governmental organizations have still openly endorsed and financially supported blockchain startups that intend to overhaul China’s legacy systems.

Photo by Jennifer Chen on Unsplash

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Alibaba Payments App to Step Up Scrutiny Over Crypto OTC Trading

Ant Financial, the payments affiliate of Alibaba, is cooperating with Chinese regulators to scrutinize peer-to-peer cryptocurrency trading using its Alipay mobile app.

Beijing News, a media outlet administrated by the Communist Party, reported on Friday Ant Financial is now beefing up efforts to monitor both merchant and customer accounts as well as notable sites that integrate the Alipay gateway to facilitate over-the-counter (OTC) crypto trading.

A spokesperson from Ant Financial told CoinDesk that “Alipay adheres to the principle of not providing services for virtual currency transactions,” adding:

“We have been and will continue to closely monitor over-the-counter trading activities. If we find any transactions that we suspect are related to virtual currencies, we take appropriate measures including, but not limited to suspension of related fund transfers and permanently restricting payment collection functions of accounts involved.”

However, the company did not offer details on whether or how many accounts it had already found with crypto trading involvement.

The news follows yesterday’s report that Chinese financial regulators are now seeking to block the internet access to over 100 overseas crypto trading platforms that are still providing services to Chinese investors.

WeChat Pay, another prominent mobile payments application launched by the internet giant Tencent, has also been monitoring and blocking accounts that are suspected of handling crypto transactions, as CoinDesk reported previously.

Following the notable ban on crypto trading and initial coin offerings from People’s Bank of China in September 2017, major Chinese exchanges all shifted their businesses overseas but continued to offer crypto-to-fiat OTC trading.

Alipay, WeChat Pay and bank transfer have since been used as ways for Chinese residents to purchase cryptocurrency assets.

Alipay image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Draper Dragon Backs $20 Million Raise for Alibaba Vets' Blockchain Startup

A public blockchain project founded by the former head of Alibaba’s blockchain team has raised over $20 million from institutional investors in a combined token and equity sale.

Called Ultrain, the startup announced Monday that leading investors in the round included token funds, such as Draper Dragon, FBG Capital, DanHua VC and Arrington XRP Capital, as well as blockchain industry startups, such as crypto wallet Bixin and exchange OKCoin. Traditional VC funds including Morningside Capital and Ceyuan Capital also participated.

Launched in October 2017, Ultrain was created by a group of former Alibaba staffers. The project’s chief executive, Ray Guo, was in charge of security strategy and data security as the former tech director of the Alibaba Group’s security unit. Additionally, its chief technology officer, William Li, previously led the blockchain development team of Alibaba payment affiliate Ant Financial and was a core architect at AliCloud.

With the new funding, the company said it will focus on the technological development of its public blockchain protocol – also called Ultrain – that is designed as a scalable platform for empowering decentralized applications (dapps)

Earlier this year, the platform launched a test version of its network that was claimed to be able to process 3,000 transactions per second (TPS) on a network with 1,000 nodes hosted on Alibaba cloud servers.

Guo told CoinDesk that public blockchain projects should focus on the “real needs of users” instead of focusing solely on TPS, adding that 3,000 TPS would be plenty for the time being.

He said:

“Alipay has 150 million daily active users, its peak TPS on normal days is around 4,000 to 5,000. The next step for dapps is breaking 1 million daily active users. Therefore a public blockchain with 3,000 TPS will be enough for dapps for at least two years.”

While being a prolific prep-school for blockchain entrepreneurs with over 65 blockchain-related patents so far, pushing forward blockchain applications at Alibaba is not as easy as it might seem, according to the team.

Explaining why he’d made the decision to leave and start his own project, Guo told CoinDesk that Alibaba’s strategy is to “build an ecosystem around itself.”

“A vital part of this strategy is strong control over the partners within the ecosystem – it is a centralized way of thinking. It is very hard to change the minds of the internal business leaders and persuade them to negotiate with the partners instead of controlling them,” he said.

Li also spoke to the greater possibilities to be had when founding an independent project, saying:

“Currently, the country’s policy towards entrepreneurs is relatively friendly, so our blockchain exploration can cover every aspect of the technology, including a public blockchain focusing on a token eco-system. … On the contrary, all I could do at Ant Financial was a token-less consortium blockchain.”

Old Chinese coins image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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United Nations Puts Blockchain at Center of New ‘High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation’

The United Nations’ (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres has created a ‘High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation,’ which explicitly puts blockchain technology on the agenda,  UN News revealed yesterday, July 12.

The panel, said to be “the first of its kind,” will gather 20 eminent figures from industry, civil society and academia to tackle the impact of digital technologies on global economies and societies –– an impact ongoing at “unprecedented scale” and “warp speed,” in Guterres’ words.

Representing the new body on behalf of the UN Secretariat, Executive Director and co-chair, Ambassador Amandeep Gill, said:

“You cannot look at ‘web 3.0’ without looking at blockchain or without looking at AI (Artificial Intelligence) […] our hope is that through discussion of these various digital domains […] in terms of human rights, in terms of privacy, in terms of subversion of democracy, we are able to come out with some common principles…of strengthening cooperation across borders.”

Gill emphasized “the opportunities and the risks and the unintended consequences” of digital transformation, citing mounting concern about both cyber-attacks and suspected election-tampering.

The ambassador considered that the panel’s “cross-cutting” approach to new technologies such as blockchain and AI would enable it to “maximize” its impact over the course of its nine-month mandate.

The Secretary-General has also revealed the panel’s co-chairs as being U.S. philanthropist Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

As Cointelegraph reported, Ma introduced blockchain technology through Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial as early as summer 2016. The firm has since raised $14 billion for blockchain development, and recently successfully trialled its first blockchain remittances.

With Ma recently affirming “that the impact of blockchain on the future of humans may be far beyond our imagination,” his co-chairmanship of the new UN panel signals a positive step for global dissemination of the technology.

For its part, the UN has long been exploring multiple –– largely humanitarian –– use cases for blockchain, beginning with its use of the Ethereum blockchain to transfer coupons based on cryptocurrencies to refugees in Syria.

Since then, it has also piloted a blockchain-based digital identity system designed to combat child trafficking globally. This April, the Belgian government contributed €2 mln to promote a blockchain project by the World Food Programme (WFP), which would allow the UN to use the technology to fight hunger in impoverished areas.

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Alibaba Seeks to Eliminate Middlemen in Blockchain Payments Patent

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has been exploring the use of blockchain technology to speed up international payments, according to a new patent filing.

The patent application – “A System and Method That Adjusts Account Balance on a Blockchain” – was filed with the China State Intellectual Property Office in January of this year and was revealed on Friday.

Aimed to tackle the broad concept of adjusting account balances over a blockchain, the company explained how the system could be used to facilitate cross-border transactions that specifically involve a third-party payment vendor.

For instance, the document said that third-party payment services and their banking partners in different regions will all function as nodes to form the envisioned blockchain. Subsequently each node will maintain a ledger of user balances, reflecting accounts in third-party payment vendors’ mobile wallets.

When a transaction request is initiated, the nodes would verify the user’s account balance, taking into account any legal compliance procedures that must be followed – a process enforced by triggering smart contracts encoded to the blockchain, the patent says.

The nodes would then update the balance of the users sending and receiving the transacted amount in a decentralized way, thus eliminating the need for an intermediary and avoiding the resultant delays in transaction time, according to the document.

Although Alibaba didn’t explain how or if it intends to apply the system commercially, the document was published just days after the company’s payment affiliate Ant Financial announced the launch of a blockchain-based remittance service.

As reported by CoinDesk, Ant Financial said it is now using a blockchain-based system to allow Alipay users in Hong Kong to send money to residents in the Philippines via a third-party payment vendor, and with Standard Chartered as the banking partner.

Read the full patent application below:

Alibaba cross-border payments patent filing by CoinDesk on Scribd

Alibaba image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.