Blockchain Patent Filings Spike | White & Case LLP International Law Firm, Global Law Practice

Blockchain Patent Filings Spike

While Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies dominated the news cycle the past few years, their existence would not be possible without another technological marvel: blockchain.

Blockchain is a digital ledger that documents transactions and records across "blocks." Each block contains unique data about a particular transaction or record, creating an innovative platform for data and information storage. Blockchain's industry applications seem limitless, although a growing patent filing environment may complicate matters for the future.

Shamita Etienne-Cummings, Office Executive Partner of the White & Case LLP Washington DC Office, talked about the growth of blockchain patents with PYMNTS. In an interview via email, Etienne-Cummings said Chinese firms—in looking to file patents in the U.S., rather than in China—are not making an "either/or decision. … More and more Chinese companies look to file patents in the U.S. as they enter the U.S. market," she said. "In addition, U.S. patents generally can be used as both a weapon and a shield when dealing with competitors in the U.S. market."

She also said patents can be monetized in ways that extend to licensing or, of course, blocking competitors within certain markets. She also noted that patent trolls are likely to become more aggressive as more products use blockchain.

When PYMNTS asked her how the competitive landscape might look, where China already has a "lead," she noted that—due to the fact that China has seen relatively greater use of electronic financial transactions—the country would "have the incentive to lead in blockchain property rights, as well as other related areas ([i.e.] cryptocurrency)."

Etienne-Cummings also told PYMNTS other verticals that might see uptake moving forward—especially in patent activity—include the fashion industry. "Blockchain/IP can be used for record-keeping, registering and clearing IP rights, controlling and tracking distribution IP rights, evidence for first use in commerce/trade, establishing and enforcing IP contracts … and for authentication," she said. "Blockchain would be a perfect technology in this field because it is 'unhackable.' We expect that this would be gaining more traction in China, given the problems of counterfeit products."

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