Patent Eligibility of Blockchain Inventions

The Australian Patent Office recently handed down a decision clarifying the patent eligibility of blockchain inventions, at least so far as Australian law is concerned.

Blockchain is a kind of database, with information, called blocks, distributed over a peer-to-peer network of individual computers, known as nodes. The blocks are linked together sequentially to form a continuous chain. Each block contains three elements: data, a unique signature called a hash, and a hash of the previous block.

In the Australian case, an applicant sought patent protection for a recent innovation in blockchain methodology that determines a cryptographic abstract from the data, rather than the data itself, so there would be no privacy risk associated with any leak at the nodes.

An examiner initially rejected claims to that idea as unpatentable since, on the grounds that the invention was not technical in character and required only generic computer implementation. But upon review, the Delegate of the Commissioner of Patents found that the claimed method did, in fact, provide a practical and useful technical solution in preventing breaches of privacy data.

Accordingly, at least in Australia, blockchains are not inherently unpatentable.