Cryptocurrency, currency secured by software encryption, has become a global phenomenon nowadays. It relies on an internet-based medium of exchange using cryptographical functions to conduct financial transactions and is implemented via blockchain technology to gain decentralization, transparency, and immutability. Among blockchain's numerous applications, cryptocurrency is considered as the first and most popular use of this technology. The first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was invented by a person under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto in late 2008. Since then, more and more cryptocurrencies have been established, such as Ethereum, LiteCoin, ZCash, Ripple.
According to a study by Franklin & Gaudry, cryptocurrency-related FinTech applications account for most blockchain patent filings in the U.S.. In specific, they consisted of more than half of the total blockchain patent applications filed in the U.S. from 2008 to 2018. The study also reveals that Accenture, IBM, Id m Global, Intel, Mastercard, PayPal, VISA were the top U.S. applicants for such patents. Until July 2018, major filers for patents in the blockchain and cryptocurrency areas globally are Mastercard, Visa, Bank of America and Nasdaq, and the top locations are the U.S., China, Japan, Europe and South Korea. In another study, the valuation of blockchain technology was forecasted to rise in an annual rate of 27%-128% between 2020-2030, with predictions that the race to patent cryptocurrency-related inventions will become more heated.
Although Bitcoin was built on an open-source software, in many jurisdictions, non-obvious improvements on existing blockchain techniques could be patented (provided that they have novelty) to exclude others from using the claimed techniques. In this article, we offer a regulatory approach by providing four basic questions patent applicants should raise when deciding where to file their patent(s).
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