10th March 2017

Making a mint? Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and patent ownership

The ever-restless world of money seems set for further changes that lie outside the comprehension of most people. Most of these changes relate to the increased use, if not the greater respectability, of cryptocurrencies, of which the most prominent is Bitcoin.

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The treemap shown above depicts the lie of the land in terms of patents for bitcoin/cryptocurrency technology.  The size of each rectangle indicates the current distribution of patent families, while the colour — ranging from red to green — shows the change in the proportion of patent families owned over the period 2013 to 2017 (Red indicates loss, green shows gain).

From this treemap it can be seen that:

  • a large portion of the patent families is in the hands of private owners;
  • there is a notable decline in the notional “market share” of private owners, a decline which shows two things: (i) private owners had the filed first (first movers); (ii) companies are gaining in terms of portfolio size in this technology.
  • The figure showing territorial coverage is remarkable, in that it shows how far behind the main investors are the Europeans. In short when private owners are excluded, the United States is way ahead of the rest of the world, with the Asia-Pacific trailing behind at a respectable distance
  • Once private owners are included the position is reversed, with around roughly 60% of coverage in the Asia-Pacific and only around 40% in the United States.
  • Figures for Europe are so insignificant that they do not register at all on the figure. Europe in general is quite conservative in terms of monetary policy, and anything to do with fiscal policy and monetary transactions is heavily regulated. That does not make Europe immune to developments elsewhere in the global economy, but does suggest that the Old World will be made to follow the New World, rather than to lead it.

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