Cayman-registered companies have filed the second largest number of blockchain patents in the United States, trailing only US firms, according to research by KISSPatent.
However, the intellectual property consulting firm points out that this is mainly due to Alibaba, the Cayman-registered Chinese tech conglomerate and online retail group.
Alibaba is set to overtake IBM this year as the company that holds the most blockchain patents. Most of these patents are held by a Cayman-based subsidiary of the e-commerce giant, KISSPatent said, citing data from the US Patent and Trademark Office.
In 2020, Alibaba filed 10 times more patents than IBM, the report on the current state of blockchain patents found.
This comes in the wake of “skyrocketing” patent filings in the blockchain space. The first half of 2020 saw more filings than the whole of 2019, when three times more patents were filed than in 2018.
KISSPatent noted that most filings involve Fortune 500 companies rather than pure-blockchain businesses.
The scepticism towards intellectual property shown by innovators in the blockchain space is deeply rooted in their view of the decentralised and distributed nature of the technology. The report quoted a tweet earlier this year by Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, in which he said: “If you’re bragging about how many ‘blockchain patents’ your country/company/organization has, you don’t understand blockchains.”
But KISSPatent founder D’vorah Graeser says blockchain innovators need to reconsider the role of intellectual property within their companies.
“Blockchain is here to stay and it will very soon be a dominant force in tech disruption. Big companies will use this technology to innovate and they will do everything in their hands to protect and monetise their innovations,” Graeser said in a press release.
The majority of US blockchain patent filings are in fintech, with applications focussing either on cryptocurrencies and crypto exchanges or on supporting financial transactions with distributed ledger technology.
Decentralised business solutions that are deployed via a blockchain are the second-most popular category, followed by healthcare applications, traditional banking services and general business services.