The Looming War for Blockchain Patents

By September 24, 2016Bitcoin Business

There’s a patent land grab developing in the blockchain space that could potentially make doing business more challenging for those who want to build upon the open-source technology in the future. “Everyone is trying to stake their claim and plot out their business strategy,” said Ted Mlynar, a partner in the intellectual property practice at Hogan Lovells in New York. According to Mlynar and his colleague, Ira Schaefer, there are a lot of patents pending related to bitcoin, cryptocurrency, blockchain and distributed ledgers. Publicly available records show the strong interest in filing patents related to the technology. A search for “blockchain” on the US Patent and Trademark Office website brings up 60 hits, whereas looking up “bitcoin” highlights more than 500 pending patents. “But it remains to be seen whose claim will be allowed or issued,” Mlynar said. One problem with the claims the two Hogan Lovells partners have seen is that the applications themselves are considerably broad. The Alice Corp Pty Ltd vs CLS Bank Int’l court decision – which singled out financial business methods as abstract concepts that are not likely patentable – means that patent examiners will be taking a stern look at the claims. Plus, any patent filed after the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), which was signed into law in 2011, will be answerable to a post grant review. This allows anyone to oppose the validity of the claim within the first nine months of its issuing, which the two Hogan Lovells partners think will make keeping a blockchain patent difficult. “All of these are new tools in any kind of patent litigation war, for those who have patents or those who are fighting for patents,” said Schaefer. And this process of narrowing down the scope of blockchain patents and the impending patent war […]

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