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China didn’t start off as just a crypto mining haven, it is also heavily into blockchain technology. With distributed ledger technology gaining grounds, players such as Barclays, MasterCard, Bank of America, and many others are waging a war for patents on global remittance systems and business process structures. Alibaba, China’s e-commerce giant and the world’s most popular eCommerce platform is leading this war, having about 10% of the world’s blockchain patents to its name, as depicted by data from Thomson Reuters’ 2017 research.
According to the research, out of the 406 blockchain patents filed in 2017, 56% came from China. Information from the Nikkei Asian Review shows that Alibaba filed for 43 patents out of the total 406 filed worldwide. This trend indicates the e-commerce giant’s steps to accepting the power of blockchain technology. China, in general, is leading the patent war, with companies such as Baidu and Tencent following also filling for blockchain patents.
Though it might be seen as just a struggle to acquire as many patents as possible, Alibaba seems genuinely interested in developing on top of blockchain technology. Local media reports indicate that Alibaba’s subsidiaries, Alipay and Ant Financial have entered into an agreement with the northern Heilongjiang Province government in Wuchang. The partnership is to champion blockchain solutions that track the authenticity of rice cultivated in the region – from the farmer to the final consumer.
Additionally, Alibaba has partnerships with PwC, Blackmore, a health supplement company in Australia, and Fonterra, New Zealand’s dairy producer, to create a blockchain-based tracking system that checks food fraud. It has also partnered with the eastern city Changzhou to develop a blockchain data system for medical treatment.
As the market matures, blockchain patents will increase. Patenting blockchain products will help companies find solutions to currently existing financial, business, and operational problems, attract investment and give these companies the rights over certain goods or services. As a technology that is bound to change the way we do business, vote, govern, and keep our data safe, it is only natural that companies would jump in to claim certain rights.
A lot of blockchain enthusiasts and professionals are worried that the patents would suppress innovation, especially at a time that the blockchain industry needs more ‘trials and errors’ to be able to innovate and produce real-world applications. Though most of the patents by companies might be on paper for a long time without any research or actual products, the future of blockchain is a brighter one.