China Dominates 2019 Global Blockchain Patent Applications
China took the lead in blockchain-based patent applications in 2019, according to a joint report from Chinese outlet IPR Daily and global patent database IncoPat. The report revealed that China has managed to secure seven of the top ten spots—including the first, second, and third—in the global ranks for blockchain patent applications.
In first place is Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and its payments subsidiary Alipay, with a massive 1,505 blockchain patent petitions. Close behind it in second place is the Chinese conglomerate, Tencent, with 724.
Fourth is—somewhat unsurprisingly—nChain. The Antigua and Barbuda-based blockchain firm has a long history of touting its many patents.
Vitalik Buterin questions rankings
However, not everyone is convinced the rankings actually mean anything. Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin took aim at countries—and companies—who ‘brag’ about their blockchain patents.
If you're bragging about how many "blockchain patents" your country/company/organization has, you don't understand blockchains.
— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) April 23, 2020
Nevertheless, Buterin was chided for this remark, with one Twitter user arguing that while public blockchains aren’t necessarily patentable, private and hybrid blockchains may well be.
No, public blockchains don't need patents as everything is public.
However, hybrid blockchains (used to connect private chains and legacy systems to public chains) very much do, as the code isn't public and therefore must be protected, for smaller entities especially.
— Tenacious Dragon (@TenaciousDragon) April 23, 2020
China’s blockchain revolution
Regardless of the semantics around blockchain patents, it’s plain to see that China is in the lead when it comes to blockchain innovation.
Not only does China control a significant chunk of the Bitcoin mining industry, its government has embraced blockchain technology in the last year.
In October, Chinese premier Xi Jinping called for the country to “seize the opportunity of blockchain.” Since then, the country has embarked on a number of blockchain projects, including the creation of a central bank digital currency. The currency, known as DE/CP, is to be initially trialed in four Chinese cities, with a view to launching it ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.