Alibaba is the world’s leading enterprise for the number of patents published for blockchain technology, with the Digital Currency Research Institute of the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) in third place, according to a report by IPRdaily, a Chinese site dedicated to IP news, and incoPat, an innovation research indexing center. The report (in Chinese) shows Alibaba leaping to pole position for the number of patents publicly published globally in 2017 across all three patent types (invention, design, and utility). Out of the top 100 companies 49 were Chinese, 23 from the US (see below for table of top 100 rankings).

Using the number of patents published is not necessarily an indicator of quality, usefulness or real-world application. However, the sheer speed of work of some of the companies listed is startling.

The figures show the number of blockchain patents published for 2017 and in total. Alibaba Group has clearly shot to the top of the table: out of the cumulative total 49 blockchain-related patents, 44 were published in 2017. In second place is Bank of America with 33 new patents taking its total to 44. Third place went to another Chinese organization, the PBoC’s Digital Currency Research Institute (中国人民银行数字货币研究所) which also published 33 patents despite only opening in June 2017 which suggest its cumulative total is all from the second half of the year.

Eighth on the list is another institute under the PBoC. The China Banknote Printing & Minting Corporation set up a blockchain research institute in Hangzhou last September, according to Yicai Global, suggesting they were very proficient given they published 22 patents by the end of the year. Combining both the PBoC institutes would put China’s central bank at the top with 55 patents.

Japan and the UK with five and two companies respectively are the only other countries besides China and the US to have more than one company with blockchain patents in the world’s top 100 rankings. Twelve other countries including Russia, Ireland, Spain, and Australia each have one top 100 company, although some such as Spain and Australia have maintained a place in the top 100 without publishing any new patents in 2017.

Top 100 companies for number of blockchain patents published in 2017 (cumulative total in right hand column) (Image credit: IPR daily, data from incoPat)

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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