Blockchain Patents: Research Trend, Top Companies, and Application Areas

Editor’s NoteKilpatrick Townsend & Stockton (a leading US patent law firm) and GreyB Services collaborated to help you understand what kind of research trends 12 fast-growing tech sectors are displaying. To achieve the objective, we analyzed the patent filing trends of these industries at the USPTO.  A copy of the full published study is available with additional detail here

Research trends and market studies in Blockchain are showing a sign of a technological shift. It seems somebody opened a pressurized door holding the technology, and now it is expanding at a decent pace.

Three years ago, the distributed ledger technology was believed to be something that has applications only in banking and Fintech sector. Today, we are more aware of the possibilities of technology other than the virtual currency.

The technology has potential applications in more than 40 industries. Healthcare, Real Estate, Banking are among the industries that will witness disruption. Blockchain in Telecom, Supply chain management, IoT and Smart Homes, Gun Tracking, Law Enforcement, Gaming, etc are the industries where Blockchain will play a key role.

Now coming to the part that we have stored for you in this article. The Table of Content (you can also use it to jump to the section you like.) can help here:

How the research activity in the Blockchain evolved over the year?

The animated chart below helps us see how the research trend in Blockchain in the US has evolved between 2013 and 2016. You can see a lot of non-financing companies like Intel, IBM joining the force and changing the research dynamics in recent years.

Fintech players like Bank of America, MasterCard, Visa have been taken over by companies like IBM and Intel. Further, in recent years you can see retail giants like Walmart joining the party. It is interesting to see Walmart in the list of top patent filers as the company’s strategy made it transformed itself into a technology company.

The chart below depicts the blockchain patent filing trend over the last decade in the US:

blockchain patents filings

Where these patents are being filed?

The table below can help you see the distribution of blockchain patents in different sub tech areas.

Significant research and patent filing activities could be seen in core blockchain technologies like blockchain computation and data structure. Research in this area has shown an upward trend as well.

However, the most heated patenting race is seen for protecting the innovative ways in which blockchain can be used which are predicted to disrupt many industries.

In application areas, cryptocurrencies received the highest number of patent filing. Patent filings for non-fintech application areas like supply chain logistics and healthcare applications are growing at a steep pace as well.

Currently, more than a quarter of patent filings are related to non-FinTech applications, and we foresee this percentage rising as more industries incorporate blockchain technology into their operations.

blockchain patents in sub tech areas

Top Companies with Most Blockchain Patents (US)

The chart below represents the leading companies filing patents in the USPTO for blockchain. IBM (71 patents) has been researching in the multiple application areas of blockchain.

Top companies holding most blockchain patents

IBM introduced Maximo network on blockchain. It is designed to complement the industry-leading asset management capabilities already offered by Maximo. In October 2018, IBM launched its blockchain-based, global food tracking network and in Feb 2019, completed a trial to track a shipment of oranges from China to Singapore.

Bank of America (46 patents) has filed the maximum number of cryptocurrency-related blockchain patents. Its primary strategic focus is using Blockchain for verifying and recording transactions. Additionally, it intends to create a peer-to-peer payment system using Blockchain to ease foreign transfers.

Mastercard (30 patents) wants to combine Blockchain with AI and ML (Deep tech) to improve efficiency and create new services. Ken Moore, EVP, and Head of Mastercard Lab said that the company is shifting its focus from digital payment solutions to other application areas.

Intel (17 patents) launched its hyperledger platform in Feb this year. It is aimed to add modularity and a high level of privacy for organizations that want to build their blockchain solutions. The company has partnered with Tencent to develop Sawtooth hyperledger. Further, it has been working with R3 consortium and Microsoft for deploying Blockchain at an enterprise level.

Cognitive Scale (16 patents) is integrating Blockchain with AI in its process intelligence and customer engagement products. In Jan 2018, the company announced Cortex 5, a next-gen augmented intelligence cloud software powered by Blockchain and AI.

Visa (10 patents) has been working on its Visa B2B Connect, a blockchain-based digital identity platform, aimed to make cross border payments more secure. To make it possible, the company is combining hyperledger fabric framework with its own assets.

Research Trends in Blockchain Computation

The way blockchain works, it involves a lot of core processes like block mining, block generation, block hashing, and block sharing.

patent filings in blockchain computation

Top Companies are Researching Blockchain Computation

Top companies having patents in Blockchain ComputationResearch Trends: Blockchain Data Structure

Blockchain data structure (42 patents) is an organized record of blocks that stores the information of transactions carried out in the Blockchain environment.  It is efficient in data management, that’s why not just financial companies but government agencies are also interested to use this technology in the public sector.

Patent filing in blockchain data structures

Top Companies Researching Blockchain Data Structure

Top companies filing patents in blockchain data structures

Research Trends in Blockchain – Network Arrangement 

A total of 967 patents are filed as a significant part of research in the blockchain is focused on its network architecture and arrangements. A fair share of patent filing is focused on closely related core technologies of Blockchain such as peer to peer networks and decentralized databases.

Patent filing trends in blockchain network arrangement

Top Companies Researching Network Arrangement

Top companies filing patents in blockchain network arrangments

Research Trends in Blockchain Security 

A total of 323 patents are filed in the US for the application of blockchain in security. From a cybersecurity standpoint, decentralization leads to a higher standard of security. This is the reason security applications of blockchain are gaining a lot of traction. It has the potential to solve the security woes of emerging domains like smart Home: How Blockchain is Improving Privacy and Security in Smart Homes

Patent filing activity in blockchain security tech

Top Companies Researching Blockchain Security

Top companies filing patents in blockchain security

Research Trends: Type of Blockchain

Based on how a company or industry is using it, blockchain technology is generally categorized into 3 types – Public, Private, and Consortium or Federated Blockchain. These categories relate to whom a blockchain is open for, who can read/write the ledger data, etc. In the chart below, you can see how patent filing (360 patents) is distributed among different type of blockchain:

Patent filing activity focused on different type of blockchains

Top Companies Researching in Different Types of Blockchain

How Many Foreign Players are Interested in Blockchain in the US Market

The chart below represents the foreign companies filing patents at the USPTO. You can see that the interest of foreign companies in the US market is continuously increasing which is evident from the number of patent filing following an upward trend. This means in the coming years, the US players may be facing tough competition from the foreign players.

What’s Next?

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