Several business publications have recently reported a dramatic increase in the number of patent applications filed globally for fintech-related inventions. According to one widely-reported analysis, 9,545 applications were filed in 2016 which is 500 more than in 2015 and over 49% more than in 2011. The United States is reportedly leading the charge with 4,523 patent filings in 2016 and China, in a somewhat distant second place, filed about half that number in the same year.
A patent gives an inventor exclusive rights to exploit their invention commercially for a limited term (usually 20 years) in return for public disclosure of the invention. The monopoly conferred serves to incentivize innovation and encourages public disclosure of innovations for the advancement of technology and the common good. The recent surge in patent applications clearly reflects a significant uptick in research and development efforts in fintech and shows that innovators in this space are serious about protecting and commercialising the fruits of their labour.
The types of fintech-related inventions seeking to be patented are diverse and include systems for managing bitcoin and blockchain-based currency reserves. Other examples include credit risk assessment tools and artificial intelligence agents for identifying and analysing fraud and irregular trading activities.