China is sparing no efforts to accelerate its blockchain development, with a growing number of patents related to the emerging technology.

Wang Jianwei, a deputy head of the information technology development division at China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said on Monday at a forum that China currently has over 1,400 blockchain companies and more than 40 industrial parks, local media Securities Times reported.

Wang said the country has seen blockchain being applied to areas including supply chain management and smart manufacturing.

A recent report by intellectual property research media IPR Daily showed that Alibaba fintech affiliate Ant Group has obtained 631 blockchain-related patents during the period between the beginning of this year and Aug. 31.

Ant Group appeared to have acquired the most blockchain patents during the period, followed by Tencent with 307 patents, and blockchain company with 86, according to the report.

In 2020, while much of the world was shut down from the Covid-19 pandemic, China saw a fivefold increase in blockchain patents granted compared to 2019, the report suggested.

China has seen a rise in blockchain-related patent applications over the past few years. In 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized the development of blockchain technology, calling for more research, investment and regulation. More than 35,000 companies answered Xi’s call, expanding their business into blockchain by registering company names and major business using the term “blockchain.” Companies not only wanted to obtain blockchain bragging rights, but also to file more patents related to the technology. 

“This ties in very well with new-technology companies in the blockchain sector,” John Eastwood, a Taipei-based patent lawyer who is a senior partner at Eiger Law’s Greater China practice, previously told Forkast.News. “Because many of them struggle to differentiate themselves from other blockchain companies and wish to demonstrate something to support their value to investors.”

The cost of filing a patent in China is close to zero, but the upside to holding a patent, or even just filing a patent, is comparatively large, as it can add to a company’s profile. Many applications do not seem to be advanced or innovative, but companies still want to file them to create the appearance of being innovative, Eastwood said.