Prepare for patent war says Anton Corbin, Editor-in-chief at The Bitcoin Patent Report. The surge in price of Bitcoin, has brought a lot of attention to the underlying Blockchain and Distributed Ledger technology. With more than 2000 patents and patent applications regarding Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology, a patent war is coming, likely to be led by some of the major banks and other corporations, as well as patent trolls that see a great opportunity to make a play for Blockchain Intellectual Property (IP).
Although the publication of the Bitcoin White paper by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 makes it impossible to patent the direct underlying ideas of Bitcoin and the Blockchain, any further technical developments and use cases as well as upcoming layered solutions may be patentable, and such solutions are indeed being patented as we speak.
The underlying Blockchain technology is an innovation born in the open-source software community, where software developers pride themselves on the sharing of information. But the open-source initiative will likely be taken over by some of the largest companies in the world, and maybe also by some new informative players.
As previously reported, big players such as Bank of America, Mastercard, IBM, Alibaba as well as new players such as Coinplug and NChain have been applying for large amounts of patents within this field over the last couple of years. Regardless of the merits of each patent, and the moral case for their very existence, they reveal an unprecedented level of interest in Bitcoin and the Blockchain ecosystem.
Patent war is inevitable says, Nick Spanos, founder and CEO of Blockchain Technologies, which among other things has patented a blockchain-based election voting system.
Patent war is inevitable
Erich Spangenberg of IPWe has also formed a new group of people that are set out to unlock the value in Blockchain IP.
Intellectual Ventures, which often is criticized for monetizing on Intellectual Property has also acquired patents related the Blockchain technology.
With hundreds of hedge funds investing in digital currencies, according to a New York Times report, there is a lot money flowing into this new technological field.
In the aftermath of the software industry’s first boom, many of the patents, e.g. covering digital payment methods, were ultimately acquired by patent trolls and led to lawsuits against businesses using e-commerce transactions, and the courts often sided with the patent trolls.
The legal battles will ensue; we will see what the landscape looks like when the dust settles.
The patent databases not only reveal information about which companies that are currently the most active patent filers (although this is a good starting point for those interested in monitoring competitors and/or understanding the interest and investments that some of the major companies in the world put into the blockchain technology) but more importantly, it is indeed possible to get the hands on in-depth technical patent descriptions to understand what technical solutions that these companies are looking into and thus their focus and direction of research.
As always, information is crucial for taking the right decisions, and there is an ocean of in-depth knowledge to be gained from mining the worldwide patent databases.