The Race for Blockchain Patents: How Microsoft, Google, IBM are Preparing for a Blockchain Future

Many blockchain analysts and experts believe that crypto adoption and integration will only be possible on a grand scale when major multinational companies jump on the proverbial bandwagon.

But did you know that some of the world’s largest companies are already planning and plotting for this eventuality, even if they’re publically criticizing cryptocurrencies? (We’re looking at you, Google, Facebook, and Mastercard).

Did you know that the Bank of America already has almost 50 blockchain patents, just in case?

When talking to one of the financial industry’s leading news websites, Fortune, back in January, the Bank of America’s chief technology officer, Catherine Bessant said:

bank-of-america-icon-png“We’ve got just under 50 patents in the blockchain/distributed ledger space. While we’ve not found large-scale opportunities, we want to be ahead of it, we want to be prepared.”


They are not the only large-scale company that has secured blockchain-related patents.

Major multi-national companies might not be shouting crypto from the rooftops at this moment but they are preparing for greater adoption of blockchain technologies. They can’t afford to miss the boat.

2018 Global Blockchain Patent Enterprise Ranking

When the 2018 Global Blockchain Patent Enterprise Ranking was released in September, it unearthed some interesting data.

Some of the largest companies in the world have already secured a myriad of blockchain patents. The list includes the likes of Alibaba, Google, IBM, MasterCard, Visa, Sony, PayPal, Nasdaq, Microsoft, Facebook, just to name a few who are already ahead of the curve in relation to blockchain related patents.

Blockchain patent ranking
The top 20 companies with blockchain patents. The Chinese name at number one is Alibaba – the so-called “Chinese Amazon.”

Let’s explore the exact nature of these blockchain patents held by the world’s mega-companies. And what possibly end-game uses do they have for their use of blockchain technology.


Blockchain patents: 90

alibaba blockchain patents

Out of the 406 blockchain patents that were applied for in 2017, Alibaba was responsible for 10% of them, bringing its total blockchain patent count to 90. The CEO of Alibaba’s financial sister-company Ant Financial, Jing Xiandong, actually went as far as stating that:

“We are the most patented company in the world of blockchain technology.”

At this point, Alibaba has used their blockchain patents in a number of ways such as tracking cross-border shipments, securing medical data and even for fighting against food fraud.

The vast majority of Alibaba’s blockchain patents revolve around design and utility. One of their most prominent patents is the Ant Financial Blockchain 2.0. It’s an open platform that focuses on self-operation and decentralization.

Alibaba is clearly leading the way for innovative blockchain solutions and is collaborating with a number of companies to further their blockchain developments.


Blockchain patents: 89

IBM blockchain patents

IBM is right up there with Alibaba for its prolific collection of 89 blockchain patents. In July alone they acquired six patents relating to possible blockchain capabilities. One of their most interesting patent acquisitions from July is Patent 1: 20180198630.

This patent is related to blockchain transactions that can preserve privacy. The patent would enable IBM to execute confidential transactions via smart contracts.

Further reading: Smart Contracts, Explained in the Simplest Possible Terms

They’ve also filed patents for tracking medical items which could optimize patient safety in a hospital environment. 

IBM is at the forefront of acquiring blockchain patents, most of which are system-based and facilitate smoother blockchain operations, as you would expect from one of the world’s largest tech companies.


Blockchain patents: 80

Mastercard blockchain patents

MasterCard is another major company with a variety of blockchain patents, mostly, as you would expect, pertaining to payment transactions.

The credit card giants filed for a patent in July that would encode an image of your payment card to a blockchain. Theoretically, you could then pay with your card in a store, using a point-of-sale device, without actually handing over your card. 

Another patent would allow Mastercard users to upload their travel itineraries to a blockchain, allowing shops and vendors the chance to bid for your business.

Yet another aims to partition a blockchain so it could handle and store multiple different types of transactions. 

Mastercard isn’t slowing down on the patents front either. They recently applied for a new patent that could theoretically launch a fractional reserve banking system for crypto.

When they do decide to delve headlong into crypto transactions, they will be ready to carve out a decent slice of the payments market.


Blockchain patents: 20

Microsoft blockchain patents

When it comes to mega-companies, few exist on the scale of Microsoft. Earlier this year, they filed for two blockchain patents that show the company is looking into the possibility of enhanced Trusted Execution Environments (TEE).

A TEE is a secure area of a main processor. It’s easy to get swamped by the technical jargon used by these patents and the technologies themselves.

Breaking it down, Microsoft might want to use its TEE patent to offer higher levels of security for a mobile operating system or its cloud system Azure.


Blockchain patents: 22

Google blockchain patents

You would assume that Google isn’t much of a blockchain advocate judging by its stance on marketing ICOs and other crypto-based products. But the search engine king has obtained its own blockchain patents to ensure it is not left out in the cold.

Google applied for the patent US20170177898A1 back in June 2018, which was granted in July this year. The blockchain patent aims to stamp out data tampering:

“A system, method or computer readable storage medium configured for storing encrypted data on a blockchain. To write additional data in a blockchain, a request is received at a computing node.”

In layman’s terms, Google wants to use a blockchain system to verify any data stored on its database. This will safeguard the integrity of the information and will flag the info when it is altered or deleted.


The main focus of many blockchain patents applied for by major companies largely revolve around the authentication of existing data and the verification of transactions.

It’s quite ironic, however, that some companies such as Google and Facebook appear to be against crypto and blockchain adoption in the public sphere, but behind closed doors are snapping up as many blockchain-related patents as possible.

Alan Wass

Alan is an experienced writer who loves every aspect of cryptocurrency from trading to technology and everything in between. Crypto is on the verge of changing the world as we know it and Alan plans to be there to narrate the financial revolution as it happens.

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