Introduction to Patent Blockchain

Blockchain is one of the most talked-about technologies in recent times, and rightly so. Its implications are incredible and has the ability to positively affect almost any industry you can possibly think of. From tracking the progress of goods in the supply chain to verifying the ownership of a piece of art, blockchain is here to stay. Undoubtedly, the world of intellectual property (IP) will see a ton of applications dedicated to it. 

In this article, we will learn about the various applications of blockchain in the IP world. 

 

What is Blockchain?

It is a secure and transparent digital ledger and its system of recording information makes it impossible to hack or cheat into. Each block in the chain contains transactions, and every time there is a new transaction in the blockchain, a record of it is added to every participant’s ledger. 

No one owns Blockchain. It is a distributed ledger through the nodes connected to the chain. Some of the biggest names in the business world, such as, Microsoft, Amazon, Tencent, Walmart, Alibaba, Samsung, PayPal, etc., have live blockchain operations. 

 

Blockchain’s relevance in the Intellectual Property world:

One of the most valuable assets is intellectual property, and given the pace at which businesses innovate, IP is the ultimate competitive advantage. According to US research firms, 84% of the S&P 500’s market value is incredibly difficult to manage, value, and transact. 

When the patents with blockchain claim first got mainstream in 2016, there were only three. As of November 2, 2021, the number grew to 2,660

 

Patentability of Blockchain-based technologies:

The number of patent applications that have the word ‘blockchain’ in it has increased, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect in the approval rates. It will take sometime before we know the rate of success of blockchain-related patents. Most of the blockchain patents are utility patents, they cover processes, features, and functions of technology. A utility patent protects the unique combination of components which go into running the application. 

 

Who are the leaders in Blockchain Patents? 

There has been a huge adoption of the blockchain technology by businesses of all sizes, especially in China. More than 10,000 blockchain-related patents have been filed with the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA). 

China accounts for 46% of the global patent applications filed in 2020 by leading 100 companies, while the US has around 24%. It is closely followed by Japan (8%), South Korea (7%), Germany (5%), Sweden and the UK (2% each). Alibaba holds the most granted blockchain patents at 212, while IBM has 136 patents. 

The number of patents that are filed in this field adds credibility to the potential of blockchain. Getting blockchain IP in many areas would be extremely beneficial for companies. 

 

Blockchain applications in the IP world:

Thanks to its security, accountability, low maintenance cost, and the impossible-to-hack nature of blockchain, you can safely assume that it will have a number of applications in the IP world. Let us look at a few blockchain applications in the Intellectual Property field. 

 

  • Smart contracts:

A smart contract is a program stored on a blockchain which runs when predefined conditions are met. Since blockchains can execute contractual codes, it could be a game-changer for digital rights management and other IP transactions. Smart contracts can be used to enforce IP agreements like licenses, and ensure that payments happen in real-time, to IP owners. 

The camera brand Kodak, recently launched a blockchain-based image rights management platform, and is aimed at servicing businesses and governments to store and manage sensitive documents. 

 

  • Supply Chain Management:

Since blockchain has the ability to track goods, it could help brands enforce contractual terms with respect to distribution. It will also be able to check for anomalies in the distribution system and even identify if there is any untoward activity that happens in the background. By tracking product distribution, regulatory requirements can also be met. 

 

  • Act as IP registry:

They can also be used as a technology-based IP registry where IP owners could use digital certificates of their IP. Inventors can use the blockchain platform to collect royalties from those who are using their IP. One of the biggest issues with patent filing and application is that it takes up a lot of time for approvals. For businesses that are looking to gain by being the first at something, this can hamper their ability to not only protect their innovation, but also stops them from taking full advantage of the IP. 

 

  • Evidence of ownership:

Since blockchain can provide proof of conception, use, qualification requirements, and status, it can play a huge role with respect to unregistered IP rights. When an inventor uploads the original design or at least the details of the work to a blockchain, it will create a time-stamped record and will act as a valid proof of the ownership. Many blockchain-based startups are already working on distributed ledger technology-based repositories. It will be a great application for both copyright protection and digital rights management. 

 

  • Maintaining version control of digital assets:

The average patent or copyrights would have had multiple versions over the course of their lifetime and there is a pressing need to link these different versions. Blockchain can be used in such a scenario where all the versions of the digital assets can be linked using the ledger technology. It can be used for managing the digital asset’s entire lifecycle. 

 

  • Anti-counterfeiting: 

The ability to identify an original one from a fake is possible because of the blockchain ledger that cannot be compromised. Everyone in the supply chain would be able to validate the genuinity of the product- customers, custom authorities, vendors, etc. 

Since blockchain ledgers hold IP rights information, it can also be used as a certificate of provenance. Provenance is the document which validates an authentic art piece as it outlines the work’s creator, history and appraisal value. The blockchain ledger holds information about the product’s manufacturing process, when and where they are made, raw material’s sources, etc. Such solutions are gaining fast acceptance among businesses, consumers, and insurance companies. 

 

  • Micro-licensing:

Blockchain can also be used for the management of access authorization and for the grant of licenses. Access will be granted to digital content only if the payment has been validated in the blockchain. Also, when it comes to licensing, blockchain can track who all have been granted licenses, and also ensure that the royalties are paid on time. 

 

  • R&D agreements:

 If there are two parties collaborating with each other’s IP, then they can license their existing IP to each other to create a new IPR. Allocating ownership of the new IP can be handled through the blockchain solution. Milestone-based payments could also be made to the parties based on how far they have come in the project. 

 

  • IP Marketplace:

Since blockchain utilizes the distributed ledger technology, it has the ability to record, share, and synchronize transactions in their respective electronic ledgers. Blockchain can potentially be used as a platform where inventors can store their information in the form of ledgers with a note describing their invention. It can act as an IP marketplace where potential licensees will get to know about inventions and the patent holders/inventors. 

 

  •  For information sharing of IPR related data:

The ledger technology that blockchain uses can change the way IPR-related information is shared. By using this way of sharing information, you will not be compromising on the transparency, security, and other regulatory frameworks. IPR is one area where information sharing has to be sacrosanct and not everyone can have access to it. 

 

  • Unifying global patent system:

Unifying the patent system across the world is one use case that the ledger technology of blockchain can surely solve. It can solve the speed at which applications filed are processed, fastens the innovation process, and provides a more evolved information-sharing process. A few patent offices have even started accepting blockchain as proof of evidence under electronic evidence. 

 

  • Collaboration between IP offices:

Since blockchain has the feature to track all activities, it will be extremely useful when collaborations between different IP offices happen during prosecution of IP applications. Information sharing with World Intellectual Property Offices (WIPO) will also be easier if data is maintained using blockchain technology. 

 

  •  MSMEs can use IP judiciously:

When information regarding IP rights is made available on the blockchain, it will help small and medium businesses to invest their resources without having to infringe on others rights. They will also be able to use technologies whose IP rights have expired. While this is possible even now, they will need to invest in a lot of resources, both monetary and time, to identify if they are infringing on someone else’s IP. 

 

  • Settle IP disputes:

If all IP data is made available on the blockchain, then it will be easier to sort out IP related issues. It will be easy to gauge the genuineness of IP rights and even the law enforcement agencies will find it pretty simple to solve these cases not only in the right manner, but also expedite them. 

 

Conclusion:

If you are using blockchain-backed technologies as a part of your intellectual property endeavours, then you are best advised to file your patent application as quickly as possible. By doing so, your innovation will be protected. The first few use cases of blockchain have shown a lot of promise, but we would need to research further to understand the full potential of blockchain, and also consider the legal challenges that will come up. 

Schedule a consultation call with one of our IP experts to check if you can patent your blockchain-driven innovation. ResearchWire’s experts are well-versed with the nuances of laws pertaining to IP as well as blockchain, and would be able to offer you the right solution.

 

write to: query@researchwire.in

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How to Identify Disruptive Technologies?

Why do some companies make bank every year while others struggle to stay afloat? There are a lot of factors which decide the longevity and success of a business. But if there is one rare ingredient which can put any company at the top, it is this- presence of a disruptive technology. 

 

The personal computer, internet, smart phones, artificial intelligence, 3D printing are all examples of disruptive technologies. Some of these technologies have even managed to change the way we live our lives. 

 

What is disruptive technology?

 

It is any technology that disrupts the status quo of an industry or a market. A disruptive technology will be completely new for everyone and its use cases might not even be defined yet. Disruptive technologies are impactful and usually affect other technologies as well. There are times when it is not the technology that is disruptive per se, but it is the way in which it is combined with others. 

 

Innovation is usually either sustaining or disruptive. If your innovation incrementally improves the existing product, then the innovation is sustainable. But if it completely changes the way the product has been used so far, or if it serves a completely different set of customers, then the innovation is disruptive. 

 

Here are a few questions which you can use to see if an innovation is sustainable or disruptive:

 

  • Is the innovation based on a product that appeals to a huge segment of customers? If the answer to it is yes, then it might not be disruptive.

 

  • Is it an enhanced version of the product? Or is it just a modified version? It is a sustained innovation if the answer is yes.

 

  • Are the use cases from this innovation not fully identified yet? Then it might be disruptive.

 

  • What do the experts in your organization tell you about the technology? If they think that you have hit the jackpot and are preparing to leverage it, then it could be a disruptive innovation.

 

How to identify disruptive technologies:

 

A new technology in the market cannot necessarily be identified as a disruptive technology. Disruptive technologies become successful since it helps in targeting a new segment of customers, creates success for its network of stakeholders, and makes the end product accessible and affordable to more people. 

 

#1 Smaller target area:

 

While a smaller market may not always be the case, a disruptive technology usually captures the attention of all and sundry, albeit in a smaller target area. A few people or an organization will make use of the technology where they will cater to this area. Based on the results from this, the next set of events will occur. The success of the disruptive technology depends on how the first few customers react to it. 

 

#2 Great risks:

 

One of the characteristics of a disruptive technology is that it is highly risky. Not every organization will be willing to bet on them as soon as they hear about it. Since there is no data to ascertain the effectiveness of an innovative technology, there is a lot of risk associated with it. Most of them will wait to see how the new technology is faring for those who have used the technology in one of their product offerings or services. In fact, this is a well-known strategy called ‘second to invent’. 

 

#3 Creates a new market segment:

 

While creating a new market segment may not always be how disruptive technologies can be characterized, the chances of the same are there. There was no market for 3D printers because there were no similar products and people had no idea what they were. When 3D printers had mainstream uses, people started recognizing it. Today, there are 3D printer enthusiasts who have them just to print things that they would like to have. 

 

#4 Grows slowly:

 

The best thing about disruptive technologies is that not everyone would want to get their hands dirty as soon as they hear about it. There will be a bit of resistance to the new technology, but a few people will start adopting it and it will gain a bit of traction. Once a few businesses make use of the disruptive technology, it will reach the mainstream, and from that point, the growth will be incredibly fast. 

 

#5 Disrupts an existing market:

 

Reading books is a great hobby to have. People love the smell of paperbacks, it is a unique feeling when you are a book lover. In 2004, Sony Librie, the first e-book reader, was released to the public. Today, e-book readers are available mainstream and there is a lot of demand for newer and improved versions. The ebook reader is an example of how a disruptive technology has disrupted an existing market. 

 

When Jeff Bezos introduced the Kindle, everyone thought that he was betting against himself because the majority of Amazon’s sales were from physical books. In the first 4 months of 2021, ebook revenues were up by 14.5% and it amounted to $368.9 million. No one blames Bezos anymore. 

 

6 examples of disruptive technologies:

 

#1 Virtual Reality:

VR takes you to a completely new world, an effect that is created by the VR headsets which have goggles and a screen. Google’s Cardboard, Facebook’s Oculus or Samsung’s Gear are a few examples of VR devices. From retailing to the automobile industry, many industries have taken note of its uses and have been leveraging it to the hilt. In retail, VR lets customers check out the products before purchasing. 

 

#2 3D Printing:

To put it simply, it makes three dimensional solid objects with the help of digital models. When you use 3D visualization on a computer screen, you will be able to have a better understanding of the spatial aspects of a physical environment. From military applications to its importance in urban planning, 3D printing has taken the world by storm. It has had a huge effect on the satellite and space industry as well. With 3D printers becoming more affordable than earlier, the number of applications for it will only keep increasing. 

 

#3 Smartphones:

There is no doubt that smartphones have changed the way we lead our lives. With the single click of a button, we can do so many things that might have been unimaginable just two decades back. Smartphones are easily one of the most disruptive technologies that we have been witness to. We rely on it every day. We have it on our person everywhere we go. That’s how disruptive smartphones have been. 

 

#4 Ecommerce:

There was a time when we had to walk into a brick-and-mortar store to buy anything. That’s not the case anymore. We could buy anything from a pin to an airplane in an eCommerce store. Ecommerce has changed the status quo of every industry that you can possibly imagine. Add the internet to the mix, it has changed the way supply chains are managed and controlled. 

 

#5 Cab aggregators:

There was a time when we could not hail a cab with the simple touch of a button on your smartphone. You had to walk out on the streets to search for one. Ride-sharing companies like Uber have completely changed the way we commute. Uber was able to create a $70 billion valuation within its first decade, that’s how disruptive it was. 

 

#6 Online education:

Online learning platforms have become even more important with the pandemic shutting down educational institutions in many places across the world. Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) has made education accessible to a broader set of people. It is much cheaper than getting full-time education from a university, but you get to learn just as much. With platforms like Udemy, anyone can become a tutor, that too on any topic. There are many platforms like Thinkific, Kajabi and Teachable where you can host the content of your online course here. 

 

Conclusion:

Disruptive technology can change the way industries behave. It is also a great opportunity for an established business to adapt and grow. Not to forget that even startups can and should take advantage of the shifting demands in the market. There are many innovations which bring about a lot of change, but they are not necessarily disruptive. Identify the ones that are truly disruptive and see if you can leverage it for the greater good, the rewards will follow. 

 

We are a leading technology and IP consulting company and provide end-to-end solutions to our clients for all IP needs. The patent professionals at Researchwire have worked with companies that are in its initial stages to those that have existed for decades. Our objective is to present our clients with the most effective solutions that are also highly practical and affordable. 

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