US and China Battle for Blockchain Governance

When Chinese President Xi Jinping announced strong support for blockchain technology last month, pundits suggested that China would soon overtake the United States in dominating blockchain innovations. Our patent research at the Blockchain Center of Excellence at the University of Arkansas finds that China is already winning the Intellectual Property arms race against the U.S. 

 We examined blockchain-related patents that were granted from January 2014 to October 2019 by China’s patent office, the National Intellectual Property Administration, or CNIPA, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. During this period, the CNIPA awarded 2,218 blockchain patents compared to 227 by the USPTO. 

The difference in numbers between U.S. and Chinese patents is slightly misleading, as the CNIPA awarded nearly 40 blockchain-related patents to U.S.-based global companies such as Goldman Sachs, IBM, Intel, JP Morgan, Mastercard, Microsoft, and Visa. In contrast, the USPTO has not awarded blockchain-related patents to any Chinese-based organizations. This pattern holds more widely, according to a study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis, which found that only 4.17% of 1.2 million Chinese patent applications were filed overseas in 2016, whereas 43% of 521,802 U.S. patent applications were filed overseas. Perhaps U.S. organizations worry more about protecting their IP overseas than Chinese organizations do, or perhaps this trend reflects distrust in the patentability of the Chinese applications made overseas, as only 6.31% of the overseas patent applications filed by Chinese firms are granted.

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