Bitcoin and Block Chains
Over the past several years, blockchain and block chain technologies, like Bitcoin and Ethereum have been the latest examples of disruptive technologies. A disruptive technology is a technology which has the potential of shaking up established businesses and forming the basis of brand new innovations. Block Chain is talked about as the next greatest innovation which some proclaim will change the world as we know it. A whitepaper on block chain technology is available here. Block chains are closely associated with the banking and financial services industries. However, recently, they have become more mainstream as they are being adapted for use within the entertainment, manufacturing and supply-chain industries.
A quick look at patent applications at the USPTO confirms the increase in use and leverage of blockchain patent applications.
Currently, there are over 3,822 blockchain patent applications containing the word “blockchain” or “block chain.” This number is up from less than fifty which were reported back in 2014. Many of the owners of these patent applications are some of the largest companies in the world.
Subject Matter Rejections
The largest hurdle that blockchain patent applications will need to overcome will be related to § 101 rejections or subject matter eligibility rejections. Since blockchain patent applications will likely follow software and/or business method patents, they will face the same hurdles those technologies have faced over the past decade. Many blockchain patent application are reviewed by the patent examiners which have an average allowance rate of only 67%. However, recent guidance from the USPTO related to 101 rejections may help overcome this issue.
Novelty and Non-obvious Rejections
Bitcoin and encrypted electronic transactions dates as far back as 1957. A widely circulated whitepaper was released as far back as 2008 when Satoshi Nakamoto discussed the concept. While the technology is still continuing to evolve, it is generally known. In light of the almost 4,000 applications along with the whitepaper, many bitcoin inventions will need to discuss why their embodiment of the technology is new and non-obvious, which again, is a familiar hurdle for patent applicants in the Business Method and Software areas.
Blockchain Patent Applications
With interest in patent protection for blockchain technologies at an all-time high, companies seeking blockchain patents must act swiftly to monetize their innovations in this rapidly evolving field. However, as they move to monetize their innovation, the patent applications directed towards blockchain technologies, will face familiar challenges. Contact one of our attorneys if you would like to discuss blockchain patent applications.