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As a apparent practitioner, one of the questions I generally get asked is whether broadcast balance technology (DLT),  such as blockchain, is patentable. I artlessly acknowledge in the affirmative (with some qualifiers of course), and appropriately there is a deluge of aftereffect questions and statements such as: “That can’t be! Blockchain is aloof software, and isn’t it about impossible to get patents for software these days? or “This technology has been about for about 10 years, there is annihilation new to patent here,” and so forth.

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According to a contempo assay by Thomson Reuters, 225 out of the 406 blockchain-related patents (55.4%) filed in 2017 were filed by applicants based China,  91 (22.4%) blockchain-related patents were filed by U.S. applicants, and the North American corporation with the best blockchain-related patents to date (50) is Coffer of America Corp.  Other top North American blockchain-related apparent holders accommodate International Business Machines Corporation, Mastercard International Incorporated, Accenture Global Solutions Limited, and Toronto Dominion Bank. While there is not a single basal apparent that covers blockchain technology, best of the blockchain-related patents are in the banking casework sector, however, added areas in which blockchain technology is being activated include:

Therefore, this non-exhaustive account illustrates that patents accompanying to blockchain technology accept been issued, and abide to be issued, by the United States Apparent and Trademark Office (USPTO), admitting the 2014 U.S. Supreme Cloister cardinal in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank (Alice) which has acutely impacted patents for computer-related inventions, decidedly software patents. The Alice case complex a computerized arrangement for mitigating adjustment accident (U.S. Apparent No. 5,970,479; U.S. Apparent No. 6,912,510; U.S. Apparent No. 7,149,720; U.S. Apparent No. 7,725,375). The Supreme Court captivated that “the claims at affair are fatigued to the abstruse idea of intermediated settlement, and that alone acute generic computer accomplishing fails to transform that abstruse abstraction into a patent-eligible invention” beneath 35 U.S.C. § 101. The court, however, did not specify what would accomplish the apparatus patent-eligible, except that an apparatus could alone authorize for a apparent if it delivered commodity “significantly more” than an abstract idea. Following, the Alice decision, the cardinal of software apparent applications alone by the USPTO skyrocketed, and the Federal Courts invalidated hundreds of patents for computer-related inventions.

The catechism now is: “How were these companies that hold blockchain-related patents able to bulwark off Alice-based apparent non-eligibility rejections and rejections beneath 35 U.S.C. § 101?” One way to actuate this is to accomplish a complete teardown of a blockchain-related apparent (similar to a artefact teardown), that is, band the blockchain-related patent bottomward to its basic parts: the title, the abstract, the summary of the invention, the drawings, the abundant description of the invention, and after the all-too-important claims. Included in this reverse-engineering action is additionally a assay and assay of the case history of the blockchain-related apparent to gain some insights into the abode in which the description and the claims were drafted, and additionally how the claims were adapted during prosecution, and the arguments that were put alternating in adjustment to affected the Examiner’s rejections beneath 35 U.S.C. § 101.

An admirable blockchain-related apparent is U.S. Apparent No. 10,007,913, which was issued to ShoCard Inc., a blockchain startup founded in 2015 and based in Cupertino, U.S.A. The apparent was issued on June 26, 2018, and is a able case to detach because the apparatus solves a problem that we are all too accustomed with, and it acutely articulates a real-world appliance of blockchain technology.

The apparatus declared in the appliance tackles the problem of character theft, and is appropriately entitled: “Identity management account appliance a blockchain accouterment character affairs between devices”.

The accomplishments of the apparatus succinctly spells out the botheration actuality addressed, accurately that accepted systems in place for annoyance character annexation are abundantly abortive as they can be attacked and can be calmly defeated. The patentee provides an archetype of two-factor affidavit methods for accustomed out a transaction, which involves the use of a coffer card/credit agenda and a PIN or a different cipher provided via a argument message.

The arbitrary of the apparatus outlines several embodiments for managing the character of users, and mirrors the accent of the absolute claims.

The description of the apparatus reveals how users and enterprises can authorize their identities with one addition in a defended manner, and how the assay of affairs e.g. login, administration claimed information, or commutual a financial transaction, is able in an expedient and bland way. To aid in the description of the invention, U.S. Apparent No. 10,0007,913 includes a cardinal of assets such as block diagrams pertaining to the arrangement architectonics and flowcharts analogue the assorted processes for accustomed out the adjustment accomplish for identity verification. For example, one of the schematics shows a simplified block diagram of a arrangement and adjustment for sealing an character of a actuality in a attainable accumulator facility, while addition shows a flowchart diagram for a adjustment for acceptance an acknowledgement almanac and its basal acceptance record.

The capital accomplish for practicing the apparatus include:  (a) a user creating an identity; (b) autumn the user identity admonition on the user device; (c) encrypting the user identity admonition on the user device; (d) hashing and digitally signing the user abstracts (e); autograph the hashed, active abstracts on to the blockchain; and (f) administration the claimed admonition with a third affair already the identities of the user and the third affair accept been absolute on the blockchain.

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In added detail, footfall (a) involves the conception of the identity based on a accurate government-issued ID with claimed abstracts which identifies the user e.g. disciplinarian authorization or passport. The personal abstracts can accommodate a photo of the user; the user’s name, address and disciplinarian authorization number, and/or a bar code, a QR cipher or similar computer cipher for storing, scanning and/or retrieving additional data. The identification agenda can be a government-issued anatomy of identification such as an agent badge, aggressive identification, political documentation, or the like. The identification agenda can additionally be a a issued anatomy of identification such as a student ID, library card, amusing club card, or any added anatomy of identification issued by a third party. Appliance an ascribe device, such as the user’s smartphone with an appliance affairs (i.e. the ShoCard App), the user takes a account of the accurate government-issued ID, and the app extracts the personal admonition from the captured ID.

Next, in accomplish (b) and (c) the ascribe abstracts calm from user’s smartphone is encrypted appliance software, firmware, hardware, or any aggregate thereof, with a attainable key and the attainable key is commutual with an associated clandestine key as is accepted aback breeding such keys appliance a Rivest–Shamir–Adleman  (RSA) encryption algorithm, an Elliptic Curve Agenda Signature Algorithm (ECDSA), or added encryption algorithms. The encrypted abstracts is again stored locally on the user’s smartphone, and can again alone be accessed with the clandestine key of the user on the user’s smartphone.

In footfall (d) algorithms, such as a Defended Assortment Algorithm (SHA) algorithm implemented in software, firmware and/or hardware, uses the ascribe abstracts (e.g., claimed admonition collected) to accommodate or accomplish a assortment bulk or assortment data. Appliance the clandestine key on the ascribe device, a agenda signature on the assortment bulk is performed appliance digital-signature argumentation which may be authentic by separate code, firmware, and/or hardware. The digital-signature argumentation then passes the active assortment bulk and the attainable key to a user attainable interface (e.g., a graphical user interface or GUI), which is allotment of the appliance (or app) that includes encryption logic, hashing logic, and digital-signature logic, and/or other modules or code.

Next, in footfall (e) via the user attainable interface, the digitally active assortment bulk and the attainable key is transmitted to a attainable accumulator adeptness such as a blockchain database or any other attainable or clandestine broadcast database via the Internet, such that the digitally active assortment bulk is accounting or closed on the blockchain.  Accordingly, a almanac of the abstracts is generated and can be after verified, and if the abstracts is modified, the hash will not match. The blockchain database again sends aback a transaction cardinal agnate to the transmitted assortment bulk and attainable key.

In footfall (f) cryptographic operations are acclimated to authenticate that accurate abstracts is from a accurate user. Anyone who has admission to the attainable key can verify the abstracts with the signature and actuate that the abstracts presented is identical to the abstracts that was active with a clandestine key ahead and no added key. This provides for affidavit of abstracts by any third party, but only aback the user absolutely chooses to allotment the data.

The claims area is the affection of the patent, in that the claims ascertain the banned of absolutely what the apparent covers, and does not cover. U.S. Apparent No. 10,007,913 comprises 22 claims, 4 of which are absolute claims and directed appear methods for managing an character of a user, a non-transitory computer-readable average autumn a computer affairs for managing an character of a user, and a arrangement for managing an character of a user.

Representative absolute affirmation 15 as originally filed in 2016 recited:

A method, absolute operations of:

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receiving claimed data anecdotic a user from an identification card, wherein the claimed abstracts is accustomed on a aboriginal smartphone;

creating a assortment bulk from the claimed abstracts appliance a hashing algorithm;

signing the assortment bulk with a agenda signature created appliance a aboriginal clandestine key commutual with a aboriginal attainable key;

transmitting, over a network, the active assortment bulk and the aboriginal attainable key from the first smartphone to a blockchain database;

receiving a aboriginal transaction cardinal from the blockchain database; and

transmitting the first transaction cardinal and the claimed abstracts to a additional smartphone, wherein argumentation on the additional smartphone,

uses the aboriginal transaction number to retrieve the active assortment bulk and the aboriginal attainable key from the blockchain database,

hashes the claimed abstracts using the hashing algorithm to actualize a generated assortment value,

verifies that the assortment bulk in the active assortment bulk is the aforementioned as the generated hash value,

verifies that the active hash bulk was active with the aboriginal clandestine key, and

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creates a certification.

It is bright that the claimed adjustment mirrors the above-noted accomplish (a) to (f), and are drafted as broadly as accessible to cover all aspects of the apparatus as declared in the detailed description, including its equivalents or acceptable future versions.

During the assay of the application, the Examiner did not acquisition any above-mentioned art references that declared the invention, however, the above-noted affirmation was alone beneath 35 U.S.C. § 101 “because the claimed apparatus is directed to a judicial barring (i.e., a law of nature, a accustomed phenomenon, or an abstruse idea) after decidedly more” and “the alternation of accomplish for certifying claimed abstracts anecdotic a user, which is an abstraction of itself and thus, an abstruse idea.” The Examiner additionally alone the affirmation citation Alice:

“If an abstruse abstraction is present in the claim, any aspect or aggregate of elements in the claim charge be acceptable to ensure that the affirmation amounts to decidedly added than the abstruse abstraction itself. Examples of abstruse account accommodate axiological bread-and-er practices; certain methods of acclimation animal activities; an abstraction itself; and algebraic relationships/formulas.”  

Clearly on a roll, the Examiner added declared that the method accomplish of absolute affirmation 15 could be performed mentally (or by a animal appliance a pen and paper), and were agnate to the concepts articular as abstruse account by the courts, such as collecting information, allegory it, and announcement assertive after-effects of the accumulating and assay (Electric Power Group, LLC, v. Alstom S.A. et al., Fed. Cir. 2016).

In acknowledgment to the Examiner’s rejections, ShoCard Inc. argued that:

“the claims of the invention were directed to added than the accession of information, the allegory the admonition through brainy steps, and the presenting of the after-effects of the assay that were disqualified abstruse (see page 7, Electric Power Group) because “the present claims provide the adeptness for managing the character of a user by creating a hash bulk from claimed data, signing the assortment bulk appliance a public/private key pair, transmitting the active assortment bulk to a blockchain database, accepting a transaction cardinal from the blockchain database, and transmitting the transaction cardinal and claimed abstracts to a additional smartphone for acceptance including retrieving the active assortment bulk and attainable key from the blockchain, hashing the claimed data, acceptance the active hash bulk and the generated assortment bulk are the same, acceptance that the active assortment bulk was active appliance the clandestine key, and creating a acceptance to accredit the claimed abstracts was active appliance the aboriginal clandestine key and was stored to the blockchain. Because the claimed embodiments go above the appliance of animal performed processes by convalescent the accordant technology, Cybersource cannot appearance disqualified accountable matter.

In particular, absolute affirmation 15, as amended, does accommodate for a different and specific way of solving the computer-related abstruse botheration (e.g., acceptance the agenda character of a user) or technology advance that has not been activated afore in computers.

Further, the claims of the present apparatus accommodate decidedly added to the abstruse acreage (e.g., certifying claimed data  anecdotic a user) that has not been activated afore in computers or networking, and recite patent-eligible accountable matter. That is, Applicant believes that the claimed apparatus credibility to a aggregate that amounts to decidedly added than an abstruse abstraction because the claimed band-aid is necessarily abiding in computer technology back they abode a botheration (e.g., digitally certifying the character of a user) accurately arising in the branch of computer networks.

In particular, the claimed embodiments accommodate a abstruse advance over traditional assay and acceptance processes, such as those using passwords, to accommodate for bigger acceptance of claimed data anecdotic a user through a multi-step action involving the conception of active assortment bulk and commitment of the active assortment value to a blockchain database, cancellation of a transaction cardinal based on the active assortment value, and commitment of the transaction cardinal and claimed abstracts to a additional smartphone for acceptance based on the active assortment bulk and a anew generated assortment value. Above the use of passwords, the acceptance action added provides for retrieving the active assortment bulk and attainable key from the blockchain, hashing the claimed data, acceptance the active hash bulk and the generated assortment bulk are the same, acceptance that the active assortment bulk was active appliance the clandestine key, and creating a acceptance to accredit the claimed abstracts was active appliance the aboriginal clandestine key and was stored to the blockchain.

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As such, the claimed invention provides decidedly added than the abstruse abstraction by accouterment an advance to the abstruse action of managing the identity of a user by way of authoritative absolute affairs with a blockchain database appliance a acceptance action including the agenda identification and acceptance of a user through the use of a active assortment value, public/private key brace and a blockchain, wherein the acceptance is configured to accredit the personal abstracts was active appliance the aboriginal clandestine key and was stored to the blockchain, and wherein the acceptance acclimated for purposes of acceptance the character of the user.”

Original adumbrative affirmation 15 was adapted appropriately to highlight the arrangement apparatus i.e. the hardware, capital for analytic the computer-related abstruse botheration of acceptance the agenda character of a user, and the technology improvement.  Specifically, the processors of the smartphones for active the computer instructions accompanying to the cryptographic schemes and appearance of the blockchain i.e. hashing the claimed abstracts appliance the hashing algorithm to actualize a generated assortment bulk by the second processor; and consecutive assay of the assortment bulk and signed assortment value; and acceptance that the claimed abstracts was signed appliance a aboriginal clandestine key and was stored to the blockchain, were added to the affirmation in adjustment to affected the 35 U.S.C. § 101 and Alice-based rejections.

The amendments to the affirmation (underlined portions) are shown below:

A adjustment for managing an identity of a user as accomplished by a aboriginal processor of a first smartphone and a additional processor of a additional smartphone, the adjustment absolute operations of:

receiving by the first processor claimed abstracts anecdotic the user from an identification card, wherein the claimed abstracts is accustomed on the aboriginal smartphone;

creating by the first processor a assortment bulk from the claimed data appliance a hashing algorithm;

signing by the first processor the assortment bulk with a agenda signature created appliance a aboriginal clandestine key commutual with a aboriginal public key;

transmitting by the first processor, over a network, the active assortment value and the aboriginal attainable key from the aboriginal smartphone to a blockchain database;

receiving by the first processor a aboriginal transaction cardinal from the blockchain database; and

transmitting by the first processor the aboriginal transaction cardinal and the claimed abstracts to the additional processor of the additional smartphone;

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using by the second processor the aboriginal transaction cardinal to retrieve the active assortment bulk and the aboriginal attainable key from the blockchain database;

 hashing by the additional processor the claimed abstracts appliance the hashing algorithm to actualize a generated assortment value;

verifying by the additional processor that the assortment bulk in the active assortment bulk is the aforementioned as the generated assortment value,

verifying by the second processor that the active assortment bulk was signed with the aboriginal clandestine key; and

creating by the second processor a acceptance to accredit that the claimed abstracts was active appliance the aboriginal clandestine key and was stored to the blockchain, the acceptance acclimated for acceptance the character of the user.

Following these arguments and affirmation amendments, the application was accustomed by the USPTO on March 26, 2018.

Now with the blockchain patent’s belly bared, actuality are some adorning apparent drafting acquaint for accession a blockchain-related apparent appliance for an aboriginal allowance by the apparent office:

(i) The title, abstruse and claims should be drafted such that the apparent appliance is assigned to the “business cryptography” bracket (Art Assemblage 3685) of the USPTO’s Technology Center (TC) 3600, an assay assemblage focused on e-commerce apparent applications.  Apparent applications in “business cryptography” bracket accept been impacted the atomic by the Alice decision, and accordingly the abstruse capacity of the cryptographic aspects inherent in the appliance of blockchain technology should be included in the claims, especially. Patents applications that end up actuality assigned to added art units within TC 3600 are acceptable to face a appreciably added backbreaking aisle to allowance, if at all.

(ii) The blueprint should be drafted with a abundant focus on how the apparatus is angry to the basal hardware, and should accommodate absolute abstruse capacity and terminology, such as aegis aspects (e.g., encryption, hashing, agenda signatures), networking aspects (e.g. accord protocols, acute contract protocols). Focussing on the broadcast balance features, instead of the transaction features, will abundantly enhance the affairs of advantageous Alice-based rejections and §101 rejections by facilitating the assay that the adroit abstraction is “significantly more” than an abstruse idea.

(iii) The botheration actuality apparent by the apparatus should be acutely authentic in the accomplishments area of the specification. A well-written accomplishments may be critical during case as it may appear in accessible for highlighting the deficiencies of the accompaniment of the art that accomplish the invention patentable. Accordingly, the above-mentioned art should be fully discussed and disparaged, if necessary, in adjustment to let the apparatus shine. The accomplishments may additionally accommodate the necessary armament advantageous for arrest Alice-type rejections i.e. arguing that the claimed appearance that analyze over the cited above-mentioned art as basic the “significantly more,” and that there is an advance in the technology. In Enfish LLC v. Microsoft Corporation, the Cloister relied on the specification’s all-encompassing altercation of the “conventional” above-mentioned art to abutment the conclusion that the apparatus was an advance over the above-mentioned art.

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(iv) Abstruse drawings, such as arrangement architectonics diagrams, flowcharts, and dataflow diagrams, transaction action flow diagrams, and user interface (UI) screenshots, should be included to authenticate how the apparatus is implemented and appropriately abstain a §101 bounce based on the claimed accountable bulk actuality drawn to a patent-ineligible abstruse idea.

(v) The claims, whether they are directed appear a system, a adjustment or a computer-readable medium, should be drafted to recite a fair bulk of concrete elements or hardware.

The agreeable of this commodity is advised to accommodate a general adviser to the accountable matter. Specialist admonition should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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