Internet retail behemoth Amazon was recently awarded two blockchain-related patents. The patents related to cryptographic signatures and expandable data grids, signal a race to patent more of the open-source innovations occurring in the space.
Nov. 13: Amazon was awarded two blockchain-related patents, further solidifying its presence as a potential contender for blockchain services. The official award of one of the patents concludes a several-year-long filing, dating back to 2015.
The first patent, Signature Delegation, describes cryptographic signatures in a Merkle-tree based data scheme. Merkle-trees are one of the underlying innovations that make blockchains possible. The data structure enables participants in a peer-to-peer network to check that data is unaltered, or to ensure that other participants are not lying and sending fake data.
The second patent, Extending Grids in Data Storage Systems, describes a method for creating extendable shards in a database. This is useful for creating considerable flexible datasets, like those seen in a blockchain. This patent was filed almost three years ago, indicating that Amazon may have been aware of Bitcoin and other technologies quite early.
The patent covers areas similar to those leveraged in torrent blockchain-based data storage projects such as Siacoin, Arweave, and Filecoin. Perhaps Amazon might strike its next multi-billion-dollar-a-year cash cow and add one of these services to its already expansive AWS offerings.
The news comes months after Amazon stepped into the crypto space with its data streaming marketplace patent. The patent, awarded in April, described a multi-streaming service for tracking transactions and various data for Bitcoin and other cryptos.
Technology Gold Rush
Amazon’s rush into securing blockchain-related patents mirrors similar moves by other Fortune 500 companies. Companies like Xerox, Bank of America, Square, and JP Morgan are using the proliferation of open-source software to stake-out proprietary claims on the new technology.
Amazon, the 8th largest company in the world by annual revenue, has maintained a stranglehold on cloud computing and data storage; the company boasts nearly triple the market share of its nearest competitor, Microsoft.
However, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Alibaba have been turning up the heat, and the latter two have also been delving into blockchain technologies. Although open-source, IBM’s Hyperledger has gained considerable traction.
Amazon may be using this string of patents to jockey with major competitors and reinvigorate its flatlining 33 percent market share.
The move also coincides with the company’s attempts to solidify itself as a cloud provider of blockchain services. Amazon is currently competing with Microsoft Azure, Google blockchain services, and IBM Hyperledger to commercialize proprietary blockchain-as-a-service offerings.
Implications of Intellectual Property
The growth in patents is seen as a positive signal for cryptocurrencies and the technology overall. As more mature and sizable players enter the space, the legitimacy and development of the technology will continue to flourish.
However, these patents sharply contrast the impetus for open-source, collaborative, and censorship-resistant software. As the industry grows companies such as Amazon will attempt to lay proprietary claims around the technology to profit.
It’s still unclear how these large businesses will clash with existing startups and decentralized organization employing the technology, but the message is clear: The fight to bring blockchain to the mainstream has commenced.