Germany ranks fourth in terms of registered blockchain patents worldwide. Not that bad, but is it good enough?

The total number of blockchain patents worldwide has increased significantly over the last years. Six years ago, there were only 72 registered blockchain patents. Last year, there were 4,673 new patents. Prior to the year 2012, blockchain was only on the radar of very few companies. The boom started in 2017 and has been ongoing ever since.

According to Berlin-based IPlytics, there are about 539 blockchain patents currently registered in Germany. That’s 231 more than in Switzerland. However, it’s also 4,409 less than in the U.S.

The U.S. is leading the blockchain pack by far, with 4,984 registered patents. China comes in second with 1,452 patents, the U.K. third with 711 patents, and Germany ranks fourth. Not that bad after all. However, looking at ranks 4 to 10, differences are rather small. Switzerland, for example, ranks 8th with 308 patents. That said, with a population of 8.5 million, Switzerland is also about ten times less the size than Germany.

Blockchain adoption seems comparably low in Germany

Critics say the technology nation Germany is falling behind and is not living up to its technological and economic potential. Deploying a per capita analysis, there are 5 blockchain patents per one million Germans, compared to 36 patents per one million in Switzerland. The same analysis for the U.S. would result in 15 patents per one million inhabitants. Thus, looking at the per capita metric, Switzerland is outperforming all other countries by far, even the U.S.

That said, although the number of patents may serve as one indicator for blockchain adoption, it does not deliver the full picture. Just because a company registers a patent, doesn’t mean it is actually developing an application. Moreover, a registered patent alone allows for no interpretation of the quality of its contents.

Bitkom says German blockchain strategy lacks a roadmap

Especially in the U.S., a significant portion of blockchain patents stems from large-scale multinationals, not from blockchain startups. Companies like Microsoft or Intel, but also banks and payment giants like Mastercard are particularly eager to drive blockchain development. While German multinationals like Daimler, E.on, or Allianz also launched blockchain initiatives, none of those companies is considered a global blockchain leader in their particular domain.

According to Bitkom, Germany’s digital association, only about 6 percent of German-based companies say they either use blockchain already, are planning to do so, or are at least talking about it. Considering that blockchain provides benefits to almost every company, from supply chain streamlining and efficient payment processes to asset tokenization, this is a relatively low ratio.

Earlier this year, the German government had published a blockchain strategy and suggested concrete steps to ramp up blockchain development. For example, the government wants to provide a draft for a law on tokenized bonds by the end of this year.

However, critics argue the strategy is neither ambitious enough nor does it have concrete goals or a defined timeline. Bitkom President Achim Berg comments, “With blockchain, Germany has an opportunity to become a global leader regarding a nascent technology. However, for the blockchain strategy to turn out successfully, we still need a roadmap for a concrete action plan and a task force to coordinate all required steps.”

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