China is shown as dominating in the 2019 Global Blockchain Invention Patent Ranking report from IPRDaily and incoPat. China accounted for the top three spots, seven of the top ten and 19 out of 30. A partial list of the top 100 is shown below.
But Vitalik Buterin, the Ethereum founder, is not impressed by these sorts of rankings. Most blockchain protocols are open source. The leader in these blockchain rankings, Alipay, has the Ant Financial Blockchain protocol which is one of the few that says it’s proprietary.
If you’re bragging about how many “blockchain patents” your country/company/organization has, you don’t understand blockchains.— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) April 23, 2020
If you wonder why different blockchain patent reports show different rankings, it’s because the classification of a blockchain patent is not entirely straight forward. Some reports might include all applications relating to cryptography and business processes using cryptography. Those categories will include blockchain but also several other security applications.
And it doesn’t help that the blockchain is used as a synonym for distributed ledger technology (DLT).
We previously published news about 2018 global patents based on data from China Academy for Information and Communications Technology (CAICT). It showed nChain as number one and Alibaba as number two. It also included Mastercard, IBM, Bank of America and Walmart in the top ten, whereas this report only shows IBM.
The latest report, which is from a different source, shows that Alibaba and Alipay applied for 1505 patents during 2019, twice that of Tencent. That said Alibaba and Alipay have been combined, whereas Tencent and its fintech offshoot WeBank have been separated.
nChain may be less familiar to the enterprise blockchain community. Its Chief Scientist is Doctor Craig Wright, who at times has claimed to be Bitcoin’s creator Satoshi Nakamoto.
Meanwhile, China’s lead is not just in pure blockchain. With its soon-to-launch central bank digital currency, China plans to extend its reach.
Until recently, for enterprise blockchain, China has been more inward focused. But blockchain could become one of China’s bigger exports.
This weekend, China’s low cost national blockchain infrastructure, the Blockchain Service Network, will launch for use outside of China. Alibaba Cloud has offerings in the U.S. and elsewhere, and it too has blockchain hosting solutions.
That’s at the infrastructure level, but China is probably more advanced in applications.
OneConnect started by Ping An has listed on the NYSE and is doing deals in Asia including Singapore and Japan. The company combines AI and blockchain, and is responsible for the Hong Kong Monetary Authority‘s trade finance blockchain.
And it certainly helped that China’s President Xi Jinping said that blockchain plays a vital role in industry.