Race to File a Patent Application
Why would an inventor file a patent application covering a blockchain? Recently, many American and Chinese inventors have filed for patent applications covering blockchain technologies.
IBM recently was awarded a blockchain patent (US Pat. No. 10,091,228) for detecting network security breaches. Currently, IBM has 89 blockchain patents, while Alibaba (a leading Chinese company) has 90 blockchain patents. After passage of the AIA, US became a First to File country where the first inventor to file an application on an invention has priority. This was a change from the First to Invent System, which America had in place since 1836. The America Invents Act promoted the Race to File system currently in place where patent applicants are encouraged to file first.
While many people still think blockchain means Bitcoin, this is no longer the case. In essence, blockchain provides a new way to share and distribute data. Today, blockchains are considered a disruptive technology and represent one of the greatest sources of innovation from retail to high technology industries.
While Bitcoin was the first well known application of the blockchain technology, it can be used for many different applications. Generally, blockchain is a process for encrypting and recording data in a way which allows it to be transferred around the world in a decentralized, peer-to-peer environment. Because it utilizes a decentralized environment, blockchains do not require someone or something to monitor or control it. They also provide a way to verify the authenticity of the record so that unauthorized changes or modifications can be easily detected.
In an era where the transfer and recording of data has value in itself, the ability to utilize a blockchain transaction to record and transfer data and information contained within the blockchain can be very beneficial. In addition, by making the blockchain secure, tamper-proof, authentic and portable, it can be utilized in a number of different valuable ways which can be commercially valuable.
Many people believe that blockchain is poised to change the way we do things, in much the same way as Napster did for the music industry 25 years ago. As a result, there have been a large number of patent applications which have recently been filed and are currently being filed on the technologies and algorithms behind blockchains in order to own and control this latest innovation. The potential industries which could benefit from blockchain technologies include the fashion industry, food industry, transportation, retail, healthcare, document management, manufacturing, and controlling against counterfeit and unlicensed products.
As many of you know, patents can help companies monetize various innovative technologies. Many companies and individuals file a patent application in order to obtain an exclusive right or a monopoly right on their invention. This exclusive right covers the patented invention and allows an inventor to exclude others from using, making or selling any product which is based on the registered patent. Inventors can also require any user of the patented technology to obtain a license in order to continue to use the technology, or they can require an infringer to stop using the patented technology.
Many, Chinese companies have and will file a patent application covering blockchain technologies as evidenced by Alibaba’s own patent applications, where more than 10 percent of their overall patent applications are tied to blockchain technologies. In fact, China has filed more than 56 percent of the blockchain patent applications; while in the U.S., blockchain patent applications represents only 22 percent of the filings.
While blockchain is still in its infancy, like many technological innovations, patents can be used to leverage the new technology with various business specific applications in a way to provide a competitive advantage for companies and individuals. If you have questions about how blockchains can work or how you can file a patent application on a solution or system which involves a blockchain, feel free to email or call our office to schedule an appointment with one of our patent attorneys.