What happened: The Next Web analyzed data made available by the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and found that, to date, the majority of patents related to blockchain technologies were approved in China, followed closely by the US. However, Chinese entities were not among the top four institutions holding patents; Alibaba ranked fifth. Americans dominate the top 15 companies whose applications were granted. The total number of approved patents skyrocketed in 2017, when 917 blockchain-related patents were granted. In 2018, during the bitcoin crash, the number of patents continued to increase. It is unclear how many of the patents are related to virtual currency or other blockchain applications.
Why it’s important: Blockchain is increasingly relevant, especially for banks. Global spending on blockchain technologies is expected to reach $12.4 billion by 2022, most of which will be used for finance, particularly cross-border ($453 million) and trade ($285 million) payments, according to US market intelligence firm International Data Corporation. As with patents, the US will spend the most ($1.1 billion), followed by Western Europe ($674 million) and China ($319 million). Patents are important for protecting intellectual property in this burgeoning sector, especially for ambitious companies participating in a global economy. China banned cryptocurrency exhanges and initial coin offerings (ICOs) in 2017. However, following a 2014 Supreme Court decision, it is US law that poses the strictest scrutiny to patent requests which apply an abstract idea via computing, such as the distributed ledger.