Blockchain innovation

Apr 23, 2018


The media attention that blockchain technology receives suggests significant activity in this space. Patenting activity in the U.S., however, shows a space that is growing relatively slowly and only about 35 "blockchain" companies.

It's always interesting to see what the data says about technologies that receive so much attention and media coverage. Even a quick analysis could be insightful and tell much about the industry sector or the data at hand.

In this case, we did a quick look up of the "blockchain" topic and obtained 217 events since 2012 - 198 patent applications and 19 grants in the U.S. We only see 35 companies playing a role here (no universities or other organizations involved) but, particularly in this case, patents could be certainly underestimating the actual number of companies involved.

The space is led by Mastercard (at least in terms of patenting activity, with 9% of this space's patents) but also has the presence of tech giants such as IBM and global consulting firms such as Accenture. But there are also other companies that may be unknown to those that don't follow this space more closely.

For example, Netspective Communications, a firm that offers technology, services and consulting for the healthcare, government and medical technology industries. Recent patents show some interesting work on developing scoring and rating systems based on both crowdsourcing (i.e. with expert input) and some forms of profiling that aggregate multiple indicators. Blockchain plays a role in maintaining a decentralized system of ledgers.

Or, Guardtime, which offers cyber security services and develops a blockchain-based platform to defend against cyber-attacks. Its most recent activity in patenting relates to authentication systems and methods and secure data transmission. Again in this case, blockchain is used to create a "verification chain" that holds document's metadata.

As new companies enter the space (within the past months, an average of 6 companies have been active in patenting every month) more applications are developed. Three or four years ago patents were associated with a few technology categories (e.g. communications), but most recent developments look more diverse with activity in 35 of the more than 400 technology categories our app tracks. That includes some interesting applications such as the peer to peer electric vehicle charging network with blockchain payments that eMotorWerks developed.

While blockchain technology became popular thanks to bitcoin, the bulk of blockchain-related patenting activity (about 97%) is in applications other than cryptocurrencies. Interestingly, blockchain+cryptocurrency patenting activity is very recent, mostly seen within the past 18 months.

Overall, the space seems to grow slowly and involve a small number of companies, at least in relative terms. You may want to compare, for example, with spaces such as drone technology, which also receives similar levels of media attention, at Drone technology patenting growing fast.

Yet, while patenting is many times a good proxy to measure innovation activity, blockchain technology could be an exception. Among other reasons, we've seen too many examples of blockchain applications taking place in the open source arena, that is, activity that is not captured by patent counts. Besides, one might argue, because of its very nature (decentralization is among its most interesting characteristics) this technology is, after all, not meant to be owned by anyone.

How to cite

InnovationPulse (Apr 23, 2018). Blockchain innovation. Retrieved from

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The purpose of this blog post is to illustrate the kind of insights users can obtain by using our web app. None of the insights or information we provide are intended as investment, tax, accounting or legal advice.