Alibaba and its mobile payment affiliate Alipay together hold the highest number of blockchain patents worldwide, though China lags significantly behind the US.

Why it matters: The results of a study by the China Patent Protection Association indicate that China has a long way to go to match the level of innovation in distributed ledger technologies seen in the US.

  • Chinese firms are known to file a lot of blockchain patents, but the report showed that China has yet to match the US in granted patents.
  • Since a speech by President Xi Jinping in October on the importance of the technology, the Chinese government has been bullish on blockchain. It has been trying to spur innovation around the technology with dedicated projects around the country.

Details: Alibaba holds 212 out of 3,924 blockchain-related patents in the world, the China Patent Protection Association said on Wednesday. The only other Chinese firm in the top 10 is Tencent with 42 patents. US tech giant IBM came second with 136 patents.

  • Tencent’s rise to ninth in the world and second in China marks progress from the Shenzhen-based tech giant. Research published in November placed it at number nine in China.
  • Six out of 10 top blockchain patent holders are American, three of which are tech firms. Two South Korean companies also made the top 10.
  • The US holds almost double the amount of China’s patents.
  • The study also tracked the quick and explosive growth of blockchain innovation worldwide. Total granted patents increased from three in 2014 to 1,799 in 2019.

Context: China has had a tumultuous history with blockchain, especially cryptocurrencies.

  • It is now trying to become a world leader in the technology with ambitious projects such as the Blockchain Services Network and administrative moves like the national standardization committee launched in November.
  • Previous research suggests that more than half blockchain-related innovation activity in China is related to fintech.
  • Traditional banks have also ramped up their efforts to come up with blockchain solutions in recent years.

Eliza was TechNode's blockchain and fintech reporter until July 2021, when she moved to CoinDesk to cover crypto in Asia. Get in touch with her via email or Twitter.