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South Korea should strive for more blockchain patents: KIPO

Despite its active involvement in the blockchain industry and intellectual property sector, South Korea still remains a step behind when it comes to standard essential patents related to blockchain, data from the Korean Intellectual Property Office showed Wednesday.

The number of blockchain-related patents in the world’s top five regions in intellectual property -- South Korea, the US, Japan, China and the European Union -- stood at 1,248 as of the end of January this year, KIPO said in a release.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The actual figure is likely to be even higher, as several of the patents that have been issued since August 2016 were not revealed at the time of the statistics count, officials said.

The annual number of blockchain patent applications, which remained in double digits until 2014, has seen a drastic increase in recent years, soaring from 258 in 2015, to 594 in 2016 and over 1,000 last year.

In terms of accumulated patent applications, the US remained the top player with 497 patents. But China beat the US in 2016 with 321 patent applications to 58, and is expected to top the accumulated figure soon.

The global top two economies together monopolized the blockchain patent sector, accounting for 78 percent of the patents, while runner-up South Korea and Japan stood at 8 percent and 3 percent, respectively, the data showed.

In terms of overseas applications -- an index for the innovativeness of the patents -- Korea accounted for 23.23 percent, while China only held 2.97 percent.

Of the world’s top 10 applicants for blockchain patents, the leading player was Bank of America, followed by South Korean financial technology company Coinplug, US tech giant IBM and Chinese fintech firm Bubi Network.

“Now is the golden time to pre-emptively acquire standard essential patents in blockchain as the technology is yet in its initiative stage,” said Kim Yong-sun, director of KIPO’s Intellectual Property Policy Bureau.

A standard essential patent refers to a patent that is indispensable in order for the final product to comply with an industrial specification.

“KIPO will focus on helping research and development entities build big data-based patent strategies and acquire SEPs.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (