Through a regulatory filing in February, the Bank of America expressed its concerns over cryptocurrencies. Specifically, the negative effect they could have on the company’s business as well as that of other financial institutions. They further said that moving over to new technologies could “require substantial expenditure.” However, just a few months later, they’re buying up blockchain patents like their going out of style.
While one might argue that it’s a good thing to start seeing major companies taking blockchain seriously, could it also pose a threat to real innovative companies? The ones working on the ground with blockchain tech to make big things happen? Developing their ideas only to find they’re infringing on a Facebook patent?
While the main topic of conversation this year has been how regulation may stifle innovation; could patent holding be the real kicker when push comes to shove? Check out these five major companies actively procuring blockchain patents right now:
Walmart is one of the largest logistics companies whose business model may be threatened in the future if blockchain allows for peer-to-peer transactions and delivery. So they have a vested interest in evolving their business model before the technological disruptions start to pour in.
The multinational was part of a small group of companies that experimented with the IBM initiative to track certain foods around the globe using blockchain, with encouraging results.
Tracking items in the supply chain makes sense for their business model. But now they’ve even secured a plethora of blockchain patents from household energy payments, to drone delivery, and even wearable medical records.
Slow to get into the blockchain race and even banning all ICO and cryptocurrency related advertising earlier this year, it seems like Facebook isn’t discrediting the potential of blockchain technology in the least.
The company’s primary patent is for the development of a system that can handle payment authentication and processing. Not only that, they’ve also announced the creation of a group to “explore blockchain tech.”
Whether they’ll follow the lead of other social media platforms by incorporating blockchain to protect themselves against advertising fraud, you can be sure that Facebook isn’t burying its head in the sand.
3. Ford Motor Company
With the threat of electric, Hybrid and autonomous cars looming in the air, Ford has its eye on the future. Determined not to reach the edge of bankruptcy once again, the US motoring giant was awarded a patent for controlling traffic flow.
The ambitious system would implant communication models in cars as well as a cooperative adaptive cruise control (CACC). The point is to exchange tokens for information about traffic on the road, meaning that cars could deviate their route to avoid congested traffic areas.
Don’t we have Waze for that? This system would take efficiency on the road to a whole new level, allowing cars to merge into less-congested lanes and exchange tokens in order to overtake each other if they were running late.
It’s not surprising that the technology giant has more than 40 blockchain patents already. They have their own Hyperledger blockchain. They’re working with blockchain companies, and they recently signed a five-year contract with the Australian government to explore how blockchain can be used for data storage and cybersecurity. And just last month, they were awarded six more patents within the span of a single week!
These included a patent for private blockchain management and termination, another for blockchain optimization by limiting the size of the blockchain and speeding up operations, and an asset tracking system on the blockchain.
1. Bank of America
It’s not a technology company. It’s not even a fintech. But Bank of America is now the most prolific patenter of blockchain technology. The financial powerhouse has 45 blockchain patents in its possession. Some may argue that these patents are more of a defensive strategy to protect their business model against inventions that could threaten it. To stay ahead of the curve and even profit when innovation encroaches on their intellectual claims.
Although to be fair, they have started with automating the process of creating letters of credit using smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. So, perhaps they will be developing their ideas after all.
These are just a handful of the big-name players getting into the blockchain space right now. Other big companies actively exploring this terrain include Amazon, Alibaba, Apple, Daimler AG, Toyota, as well as other banks such as JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs.
So while the major cryptocurrencies remain bleeding this week, corporate adoption of blockchain is ramping up a gear. Who will win the patent war remains to be seen, but it seems as though the multinationals have found a way to monopolize blockchain technology for the time being.