The technology industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by several factors, including the increasing need for automation, transparency, and efficiency in contract management processes and growing importance of technologies such as blockchain, which provides a decentralized and tamper-proof platform for executing and storing smart contracts, as well as programming languages designed specifically for smart contract development, such as Solidity. In the last three years alone, there have been over 4.1 million patents filed and granted in the technology industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Blockchain in technology: smart contractsBuy the report here.

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 1.5 million patents to analyze innovation intensity for the technology industry, there are 190+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Smart contracts is a key innovation area in blockchain

Smart contracts are digital agreements that execute and enforce themselves automatically, eliminating the need for intermediaries. Stored on a blockchain, these contracts ensure secure and transparent transactions between parties. Smart contracts enable the facilitation, verification, and enforcement of various agreements, ranging from financial transactions to property transfers and more, with increased efficiency and reliability.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 560+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established technology companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of smart contracts.

Key players in smart contracts – a disruptive innovation in the technology industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to smart contracts

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
China UnionPay 27 Unlock Company Profile
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance 36 Unlock Company Profile
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China 42 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 28 Unlock Company Profile
Microsoft 73 Unlock Company Profile
China United Network Communications 27 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 64 Unlock Company Profile
Alibaba Group 447 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Corporation of China 152 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Information and Telecommunication 29 Unlock Company Profile
China Southern Power Grid 43 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 30 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 33 Unlock Company Profile
Advanced New Technologies 242 Unlock Company Profile
IBM 243 Unlock Company Profile
STMicroelectronics 46 Unlock Company Profile
Inspur Electronic Information Industry 30 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 39 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 315 Unlock Company Profile
China Mobile Communications Group 37 Unlock Company Profile
Pure Storage 37 Unlock Company Profile
Micron Technology 79 Unlock Company Profile
Coinplug 52 Unlock Company Profile
Civic Technologies 30 Unlock Company Profile
Shenzhen Qianhai We Bank 34 Unlock Company Profile
nChain 235 Unlock Company Profile
Hangzhou Qulian Technology 36 Unlock Company Profile
Zhejiang Shuqin Technology 33 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Alibaba is the leading patent filer in smart contracts. One of the company’s patents describes disclosure introducing techniques for enhancing security in blockchain networks. In these techniques, a node submits a linking request to join a blockchain network, accompanied by a digital code. Consensus verification messages from other blockchain nodes are received to assess the approval or denial of the linking request. Based on these messages, a consensus verification result is determined. If the request is approved, the node's digital code is stored as a digital certificate in the blockchain network.

Other prominent patent filers in the space include Intel and IBM.  

By geographic reach, nChain leads the pack, followed by State Farm Mutual and Civic Technologies. In terms of application diversity, Panasonic holds the top position, followed by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance and Siemens.  

Technology innovation in smart contracts has revolutionized the way businesses establish and enforce agreements in various industries. These technologies enable secure, efficient, and immutable contract execution, streamlining business processes and lower costs that accompany traditional contracts.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the technology industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Blockchain.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.