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China Goes All Out On Blockchain Patents Amid Crypto Ban

China Greets Blockchain With A Smile

Since Bitcoin’s inception, the terms “blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” have gone hand-in-hand, with many using the two words to complement each other in a similar context. Although it is widely understood that the acceptance of blockchain directly implies the acceptance of cryptocurrencies, China has taken a different approach, with innovators within the country seeking to propel the development of blockchain technologies, while hampering the adoption of cryptocurrencies at the same time.

As per a report from the Asia Nikkei Review, an Asia-based news outlet, Chinese firms have clearly led the blockchain-related patent race, with Alibaba alone accounting for more than 10% of the world’s blockchain patent applications. China’s infatuation towards blockchain innovation has reportedly taken the entire country by storm, with internet giants such as Tencent and Baidu issuing a staggering 56% of 406 worldwide patents.

To put this 56% statistic into perspective, the U.S., which is unarguably the world’s foremost technological superpower, is only responsible for 22% of blockchain-centric patent filings.

As per a chart from the report (seen right), the People’s Bank of China takes the cake when it comes to the most decentralized ledger technology (DLT) patents

chinaImage Courtesy of The Nikkei Asian Review

filed by an individual entity, with China’s central bank issuing 68 filings in recent years. Following the PBOC’s 68 patents is Alibaba, Bank of America, nChain Holdings, Beijing Rui Josie Technology Development, Mastercard, Jiangsu Tongfudun Information Technology, Cloud Minds (Shenzhen) Technologies, China United Network Communications and Hangzhou Qulian Technology.

John Eastwood, a Taiwan-based partner at Eiger Law, commented on China’s unrelenting drive for blockchain adoption and development, stating:

Blockchain is a new technological landscape where it could be very profitable for Chinese companies to grab significant territory in their patent claim language. Holding several patents helps to give an aura of legitimacy that helps many companies in the blockchain field to attract investors or acquirers.

Chinese blockchain trailblazers have found a good variety of industries to apply DLT to, including supply chain management, global financial transactions (remittance), postal services, healthcare, and more.

Alibaba’s Blockchain Drive

Alibaba, China’s 2nd most valuable company, has taken a rather open-minded approach when it comes to blockchain. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and one of the most well-known entrepreneurs in the world, has openly endorsed DLT. Speaking at the launch of his firm’s blockchain-centric remittance service in Hong Kong, Ma stated:

Blockchain technology can help overcome the challenges of security, sustainability and inclusion. It could change our world more than people can imagine.

And it seems that the firm hasn’t taken an ‘all talk, no action’ approach,  with the $450 billion giant making a series of moves to accommodate blockchain technologies in recent months. Most recently, Alibaba has begun exploring the use of blockchain in healthcare, partnering with the city of Changzhou to verify and “secure” a patient’s medical data on a blockchain.

While China has undoubtedly taken a leading role in the so-called ‘blockchain revolution’, the heavy-handed government seems to be hesitant to say yes to cryptocurrencies, or at least for now.

Photo by Theodor Lundqvist on Unsplash
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Singapore to Speed Up Process of Awarding Blockchain Payment Patents

Singapore’s Intellectual Property Office announced an initiative to expedite the patent-granting process for fintech-related applications such as blockchain-based payments.

According to a statement from the Office, the FinTech Fast Track initiative seeks to shorten that process from about two years to as little as six months. The program was announced during the 2018 World Intellectual Property Day on Thursday by Low Yen Ling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Education.

In defining how an application can fall under the fintech category, the IP office suggested in an appendix that a technology that utilises blockchain to facilitate banking payments will be eligible.

The statement said:

“The incorporation of blockchain technology to improve the security and efficiency of clearing and settlement across borders for transaction and payment is deemed as a Fintech invention.”

The Office also requires the blockchain patent applicants to file documents first in Singapore with less than 20 claims in one application in order to be eligible for the fast-track initiative, among other criteria.

The move marks yet another notable effort taken by the Singapore government to promote the application of blockchain tech as part of its wider push for the city-state’s fintech development.

Currently, the Monetary Authority of Singapore – the de facto central bank – spearheads a cross-border payment system concept built on a blockchain platform called Project Ubin, in partnership with its Canadian counterpart.

The new initiative comes just weeks after the Singapore government launched a blockchain competition with government funding in a bid to reward and select successful blockchain startups.

Singapore 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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Global Blockchain Patent Filings Spiked In 2017, Korea's IP Office Says

Last year saw a sharp rise in global blockchain-related patent applications, according to the South Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO).

In a data report released Wednesday, the government agency said the number of blockchain patent applications from the five most advanced countries and regions – the U.S., EU, China, Japan and South Korea – totalled 1,248 in 2017.

Although the number may not seem to be as large as those in other fields of industry, the KIPO drew attention to the notable growth rate of blockchain patent applications in recent years.

In comparison, the agency indicated that the yearly filing totals from 2013 to 2016 were 27, 98, 258 and 594, respectively. Combined, that’s less than the applications filed in 2017 alone.

Also notably, there’s a significant skew towards the U.S. and China, with data showing that the two nations account for 78 percent of all the 1,248 applications last year.

While the KIPO did not disclose the exact breakdown for each country, it said the U.S. currently ranks first in cumulative numbers. China, though, has been surpassing the U.S. since 2016 in annual patent applications.

“It is expected that China will take the first place in cumulative number of cases soon,” the report states.

Also apparent in the data, is that the U.S. is seeing keen patenting efforts from major financial institutions such as banks, which lend a 16.3 percent weight to the country’s filings in total. Among them, Bank of America takes the top spot, according to the KIPO’s figures.

In fact, by August of last year, Bank of America had already filed at least 30 known patent applications related to blockchain in total. As reported by CoinDesk, in February 2017 alone, the U.S. banking giant submitted nine applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Patent 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.