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China leads blockchain patents race in quantity, perhaps ‘not quality’

Manu Naik

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In their recently published China Blockchain Report, Forkast News talked about China’s small, growing blockchain labor force, and how not enough talent and startups want to develop blockchain projects, despite the nation leading the blockchain patents race. According to Forkast’s study of Chinese LinkedIn profiles, there were 5,290 blockchain developers in the country during 2019, from just 3,780 the year before.

The report claimed that the low number of developers, particularly compared to India, is a product of their relatively immature software development sector. It also cited a 2017 study conducted by Chinese conglomerate Alibaba, which showed that the industry as a whole is relatively inexperienced and young.

“A majority (56.7%) of developers in China have only 0-3 years of work experience. This suggests that China’s developer community is less experienced than international peers (42% have 3-10 years of experience).”

The report stated that for the blockchain market in China to mature, it will need to build up a “professional corps of blockchain developers.” Forkast also noted how despite China being in the lead with regard to the number of blockchain patents submitted, the low number of patents approved could suggest a quality shortage.

However, for nearly the last ten years China has received the largest number of patent applications globally, which has been increasing with every passing year. According to the report, this rising number translates to a booming economy and increased confidence from global investors.

For both startups and large firms in China, adopting blockchain technology has been fairly popular since 2017. Online patent search engine, Innojoy, shows over 10,000 blockchain-related patents have been filed with the China National Intellectual Property Administration. Alibaba is at the forefront, with 543 patents, followed by China Unicom with 214 patents.

The report contrasted this with the number of patents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as of 2019, with IBM and Bank of America having filed 174 and 69 blockchain-related patents respectively. 

Notably, U.S. firms have filed a substantial number of blockchain patents in China, though Chinese companies are hesitant to file patent applications in other countries. As per the report, this could potentially limit these companies’ growth to the domestic market and has arguably caused China to reach only fifth place in the number of approved patents globally.

“Beijing leads the country with over 2,000 blockchain-related patents. The numbers mirror the local governments’ support for the development of blockchain in these cities.”

Forkast also reported how patent applications have slowed since 2018, with the high-tech arms race to acquire blockchain patents having fizzled out as companies start to apply and experiment with their registered patents.

Manu is a full-time journalist at AMBCrypto covering the US and Indian markets. A graduate in engineering, he writes mainly about regulations and its impact with a focus on technological advancements in the crypto space.