Buzzwords in patents come and go. The dot-com boom, bioinformatics, nanotechnology and 'quantum' married to pretty much anything you like. Inventions are made and patents applications filed, though often fewer than you’d think. Blockchain, the open-source distributed ledger, is having its turn.
Reported activity includes Craig Wright’s EITC Holdings filing for over 70 blockchain patents in the UK, and companies like Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Mastercard filing their own patent applications.
But innovations in this field are not just for financial institutions. This distributed consensus-based model has applications in decentralized storage (Dropbox, Google Drive or One Drive), the music industry (Apple Music) and in more imaginative spheres like supporting a more secure Domain Name Server architecture without there being a single point to attack.
Most of the patent applications that have been filed haven’t yet published, and their focus is unknown. However, predictions are that blockchain will be acutely disruptive.
So, what will be the role of blockchain patents if the technology gets widely adopted? Nobody should make assumptions. The intellectual property owners will get to decide their strategies. Ultimately, they will have the right to stop any infringing activities.
And, when should blockchain innovators seek advice? The short answer is: now. It’s an exciting time for this technology, but the landscape is changing fast. Ideas that are patentable today might not be patentable in months to come.
If current activity is anything to go by, this buzzword could be one that sticks.