Vodafone repledges Libra support, but wants it independent of Facebook

Vodafone wants Libra to appoint an independent chief executive so that it becomes fully separate from Facebook .

The telecoms giant, which yesterday reiterated its support for the struggling ‘ cryptocurrency ’ project , stated that independent leadership was crucial to guarantee Libra ’s success.

“It needs a chief executive for that business ,” Nick Read, Vodafone ‘s chief executive, said.

“The sooner a chief executive is appointed to lead it going forward that is not [from] Facebook , then people will then understand the ambition of the entity itself,” he added.

Vodafone is one of the founding members of Facebook ‘s Libra Association, the governing authority tasked with overseeing the ‘ cryptocurrency .’

Speaking to the press in Vodafone ‘s Düsseldorf office, Read stated that Vodafone remained fully committed to the project , which has already lost PayPal’s support amid reports that fellow backers Visa and MasterCard have reportedly been spooked by increasing regulatory scrutiny .

Despite not having launched yet, Libra has already endured a tough few months. Just yesterday, it surfaced that Simon Morris, Libra ‘s head of product , left the association .

However, Vodafone seems keen to continue its involvement – at least for now.

Data: China has the most blockchain patents, despite banning cryptocurrency

Patents have always been controversial in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space because most projects are established on the premise of decentralization and open source code. It’s for this very reason that the notion of intellectual property (IP) is incredibly contentious.

We wanted to get a better idea about the amount of cryptocurrency and blockchain-related patents filed and published across the globe to identify key trends and gather information on the most active entities in the space.

In order to do this, Hard Fork gathered the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) website data using the following search terms: blockchain, block chain, Bitcoin, virtual currencies, virtual currency, digital currencies, digital currency, digital token, and smart contract.

Filing activity – the numbers

Our analysis found that, despite Bitcoin’s price tanking , 2018 was the peak year for patent approvals, with records showing that at least 1,060 patents were published during this period.

This was closely followed by 2017, when 971 were published. During that year , Bitcoin began trading at $998 and reached an all-time high of $19,666 in December.

Interestingly, 2008, the year in which Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper emerged saw very little activity in terms of patents. Our analysis showed that some activity took place – with one patent for a ‘m essage verification and transmission error detection by block chaining’ published as early as 1978. This can most likely be attributed to our search criteria.

In fact, the data shows that the publication of patent started taking off in 2012, with the numbers staying around the same levels until 2015.

So far this year, WIPO has published 242 cryptocurrency or blockchain-related patents.

Location, location

Next, we drilled down the data by country.

China ranked top, with 790 patents published.

This was closely followed by the US, where 762 patent applications were published.

South Korea and Australia came next with 161 and 132, respectively.

The United Kingdom was the only European nation to make the top 10 with 36 patents published.

It’s worth noting that the number of patents in the above table doesn’t match the total number of patents published – which stood at 2,747. In fact, 25 percent of approved published are unaccounted for in terms of location, as our analysis showed that these were filed under ‘global’ or ‘Europe,’ and not a specific country.

Who’s filing them?

We also looked at which companies were most active in the space.

nChain Holdings Limited was the most prolific. Although based in London, nChain submitted applications in other jurisdictions – namely Canada, Australia, and India – hence why the UK was not the country with the highest number of patent submissions. It’s also worth noting that Craig Steven Wright, an Australian businessman notorious for claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto , is the company’s chief scientist (and he’s obsessed with patents ).

The rest of the list was largely dominated by technology giants and financial services firms such as IBM (119), Mastercard (111), Coinplug (84), and Alibaba (60).

The Bank of America – which at one point was credited with being the bank with the most number of blockchain-related patents – didn’t make the top 10.

Interestingly, two Chinese universities did make the list, although their activity paled in comparison to that of other entities.

Our analysis also looked at the most prolific individuals.

Wright is seemingly building a patent empire with 95 published submissions.

Yao Qian, the director of the People’s Bank of China Digital Currency Research Institute, has had 51 patents published.

Other submissions came from Cong Zhang, Yang Yang, Joon-Sun Uhr, Zhiyong Tan, and Ying Chan.

Cryptocurrency vs blockchain

As part of our analysis, we also looked at the possible disparity in terms of cryptocurrency and blockchain-related patents.

As expected, and given the hype , 2,127 of the 2,747 patents published included the term ‘blockchain‘ in their title.

In contrast, only 260 submissions contained ‘crypto’, ‘virtual currency,’ or ‘digital currency.’

Looking ahead

According to our analysis, 2019 might surpass 2018’s activity if submissions continue to trickle in.

If inventors keep filing patents at the same pace, there will be over 1,200 new patents published by the end of 2019.

Top applicants with the most number of patents published so far this year include nChain Holdings Limited (50), IBM (18), Alibaba (14), Microsoft (12), Hangzhou Fuzamei Technology Co., Ltd (8), Mastercard (5), Intel Corporation (4), Visa (4), and Coinplug (2).

The controversy around patent applications in a sector where open source projects seem to be the norm is likely to remain, but it doesn’t look like this will deter companies or individuals from continuing to safeguard their IP.

Perhaps, what’s most telling is that despite the fact that digital currencies and blockchain technology were first designed to circumvent centralized organizations, those very entities are the ones driving patent submissions in an attempt to improve their bottom line.

It’s all about money , and those in pursuit of it are unlikely to care about the impact this will have on hardcore cryptocurrency enthusiasts who vehemently defend the principles of decentralization, especially now that the industry has evolved far beyond the purity of Bitcoin‘s public blockchain.

Did you know? Hard Fork has its own stage at TNW2019 , our tech conference in Amsterdam. Check it out .

Update 16:41 UTC, March 18th: This piece has been updated to clarify the difference between patent applications and approved patents. An earlier version of this piece had unfortunately conflated the two. We apologize for the mistake.

India addresses cryptocurrency scam wave with new police training course

High-ranking police officers in India will receive cryptocurrency training to help with investigations involving digital currency.

The country’s national police academy – the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy (SVP NPA) – has launched an educational course to help officers gain an understanding of how cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology work.

Additionally, officers will learn about the “legal aspects of cryptocurrencies, crimes committed using cryptocurrencies, [and], investigation of cases involving cryptocurrencies.”

The course, which will start in September, comes weeks after several other police forces announced similar educational initiatives and amid a flurry of cryptocurrency-related criminal activity in India.

In January, it was revealed that Indian scammers stole $2m in cryptocurrency using inspirational Bill Gates quotes.

More recently, police in India busted a call center scam that targeted US citizens, arresting 78 people.

Just last week, a bank manager in the country was arrested in a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme crackdown.

Europol made headlines when it revealed it was developing a game to help law enforcers learn how to trace and investigate the illicit uses of cryptocurrencies.

Last year, City of London Police launched its first ever UK training course on cryptocurrencies.

Unlike cash, which can’t be traced and is also used to fund illicit activities, some cryptocurrency transactions can be tracked on public blockchains.

It’s refreshing to see that authorities across the globe are trying to catch up with technology in a bid to crackdown on crime, but it remains to be seen just how effective these educational schemes will be.

Hunter Jones

Hunter Jones

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