Ira Schaefer and Ted Mlynar are partners in the Intellectual Property practice at Hogan Lovells in New York, where they advise on patent and intellectual property issues relating to blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies.
In this opinion piece, Schaefer and Mlynar discuss whether bitcoin could be patented, and whether it would be enforceable if it was.
Bitcoin is a technological marvel that has revolutionized financial systems.
The birth of bitcoin came in 2008 in a paper entitled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto. The genesis block – the first block of transactions – was created the following year, and the network has continued ever since.
Given that no person (or group) has credibly claimed authorship of the 2008 Nakamoto paper or the bitcoin transaction method it describes, not surprisingly, no patent based on that original work has appeared.
However, that does not stop us from imagining what a patent claim on the bitcoin method might have looked like if a patent application was filed in the US before the Nakamoto article was published.
While patent claims are written to pass muster at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), we have taken the liberty