Patenting Blockchain, One-day Conference at the European Patent Office, The Hague

19. December 2018

By José Santacroce, Head of Patent Department at Moeller IP Advisors

The European Patent Office (EPO) held its first major conference on patenting Blockchain on 4 December 2018. The one-day event in The Hague explored the implications of blockchain for patent applications as the technology, which started in the financial sector, is spreading to all technical fields of industrial application.

In his welcome address EPO President Antonio Campinos mentioned that patent applications for blockchain are rising fast and such patents are examined by the EPO in accordance with well-established criteria developed on the basis of case law related to Computer-Implemented Inventions (CII).

The first keynote Speakers (Marieke Flament and Claire Wells) covered the blockchain basics, setting out the main principles, key players and areas of use for this new technology, and the first panel discussed the future impact of this rapidly developing field and its links to other unfolding digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Koen Lievens, Director at the EPO, and Wang Xinyi, Examiner at the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) presented the offices´ approaches to dealing with blockchain patent applications, whereas Nobuyuki Taniguchi (Nakamura & Partners) presented the evolution of Blockchain-related patents in Japan.

An analysis of the emerging patent landscape has revealed a steep increase in patent applications since 2015, a trend similar to the one seen in the case of related technical fields such as AI and self-driving vehicles.

Most of the patent filings have taken place in China (40%), China (20%) and Europe (8%).

The top applicants worldwide are the following: IBM, Alibaba, Coinplug, Boe Technology, Mastercard and Bank of America.

The top applicants in Europe are the following: Visa, Mastercard, Siemens, Accenture, Nokia, Nchain and Sony.

The main technology fields (according to the CPC classification scheme) are the following: Payment architectures, schemes or protocols; Cryptographic mechanisms or cryptographic arrangements for secret or secure communication; Network architectures or network communication protocols for network security; Security arrangements for protecting computers; Finance, insurance, tax strategies; Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce and Digital computing or data processing equipment or methods.