Like them or not, patents are an indicator of interest in a technology. While concepts like “adoption” and “engagement” are often discussed as a means of gauging popularity, patent filings have a little more currency as an indicator of the perception of the technical merits of any new development.

A reason for patents’ legitimacy as an indicator for interest is that they are expensive. A single patent filing will cost anywhere from the low thousands of dollars on up to $10,000 or more once attorney fees and filing fees are considered. Also, they generally take a good amount of effort from the inventors in reviewing and preparing the filing.

Filing a patent shows a little more seriousness than putting up a blog post or a tweet. The total number of patents filed and issued serves as a good gauge of the real interest of any given technology.

Given this perspective, it is useful to look at the data on patents related to blockchain technology as a proxy for perceived technical merit. There are a considerable number of patents issued and pending applications related to blockchain technology.

The chart below shows the total number of issued patents related to blockchain in the USA. The data was generated by searching for issued patents that contained any of the following words: bitcoin, blockchain, cryptocurrency, distributed ledger, or ethereum.

Issued Blockchain Patents by Filing Date

As you can see from the chart, the trend line is up and to the right for total patents being issued.

Note that this data is given by filing date; many applications filed in 2017 and 2018 are still pending and we would expect those numbers to rise significantly.

We see there are a few thousand pending blockchain applications that may eventually become issued patents. The chart for pending blockchain applications is shown below. The data for this chart was generated using the same search terms as in the first chart.

Pending Blockchain Applications by Filing Date

There has been a considerable increase in the number of patent filings in the past three years. Furthermore, pending patent applications do not publish until 18 months after the application was filed, so we can expect to see the number for 2018 to go up quite a bit if the trend line holds.

For now, we’re going to hold off on any major conclusions to be gleaned from this data. It is interesting, however, to see that literally thousands of patent applications related to this technology are pending, and the rate of filing shows no signs of fading.

Whatever the price of your favorite cryptocurrency may be at the moment, we think there is reason to expect patent activity to continue to trend upward, as all kinds of entities try to patent their own special slice of the blockchain pie.

If you’re interested in learning more about Intellectual Property, check out the first piece of our five-part IP Law Basics series here.

This is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have questions about any of these topics, you should consult with a lawyer.