Patent applications for blockchain related innovations are booming worldwide and Australia is “punching above its weight” according to a report from the ACS and IP Australia’s Patent Analytics Hub.
Worldwide the number of blockchain patent filings has grown by between 140 and 230 per cent every year since 2013. While inventors from the United States and China dominate the list of patents, Australia ranks sixth in terms of the number of ‘patent families’ filed by Australian firms and individuals.
The report Blockchain Innovation: A Patent Analytics Report identified 49 patent families originating from 55 Australian applicants.
“Blockchain patenting is more than doubling every year, and we can see real opportunities for Australia in blockchain technologies,” commented IP Australia chief economist Benjamin Mitra-Kahn.
The top Australian patent applicants are: Sydney-based Bloxian,which earlier this year partnered with software firm R3 to work on its Corda blockchain platform; ASX-listed Identitii, used by HSBC in its cross-border payment compliance effort; Perth fintech Moneycatcha, another HSBC partner.
Government agency CSIRO and its off-shoot Data61 also rank highly. Data61 – working with the Concurrent Systems Research Group at the University of Sydney – in September validated at scale its energy efficient, ‘fork-free’ Red Belly Blockchain.
Other major Australian blockchain inventors were named as Sydney’s TBSx3 which is applying blockchain to product verification use cases; health record management firm Enome; and identity management and data sharing platform Bron Tech.
“It’s pleasing to see that despite strong competition in this space, Australia is punching above its weight when it comes to blockchain innovation. We’ve already seen Australia’s financial services sector investing heavily in proofs of concept, along with the Australian Stock Exchange and government departments including the Digital Transformation Agency,” said ACS president Yohan Ramasundara.
The Australian figures are eclipsed by China’s 1520 patent families filed, representing more than half of the total patents filed globally. With just over half the number of patents filed, the US ranks second with 773.
Patents filed are a good indicator of the countries which are “hotspots” for research and development, the report said, and can help innovators understand who has a commercial interest in the technology and where they are.
South Korea’s Coinplug – which provides various Bitcoin exchange platforms, electronic wallet services, and online point-of-sales service – is the single entity with the highest number of approved patents, with 69 overall.
IBM comes in second place globally with 12, followed by Accenture and Microsoft Azure, which each have seven.
Coinplug and IBM also top the list for active patents (which includes those filed but yet to be granted). In third place in that list is Alibaba Group and fourth, Bank of America.
According to the report, the most common use cases for blockchain technology based on patents filed are document handling and management, and payment and transaction systems.
Proving the promise
Blockchain-based technologies “hold promise as a new foundation for transactions in society,” stated a report released last year by the CSIRO’s Data61 research group.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has said it expected the range of potential uses of blockchain-style distributed ledger technology to grow “exponentially” over time.
Australia is home to a number of proof-of-concepts that utilise the technology. Commonwealth Bank of Australia this year applied blockchain to track and trade 17 tonnes of almonds, and used it as the basis for an asset trading platform.
In December last year ASX Limited, operator of the Australian Securities Exchange, confirmed it was replacing its decades-old Clearing House Electronic Subregister System with blockchain-inspired distributed ledger technology.
Spending on blockchain networks was expected to reach US$2.1 billion this year, more than double what was spent on distributed electronic ledger technology in 2017. According to IDC the total spend will reach US$9.2 billion by 2021.