In April of this year, IBM and IPwe announced a project to use Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) to record the ownership of patents on a blockchain run by IBM. This development is meant to make it easier to buy, sell, and license patents.
Patent ownership is transferred through legal documents known as “assignments,” which function similarly to deeds for real property. Just as a deed is recorded at your local county courthouse to prove the ownership of real property, so are patent assignments recorded at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”) to prove the ownership of patents and trademarks.
The issue is that the process of drafting, signing, and recording assignments can be slow. Because of this, buying and selling patents may feel more like the slower speed of buying and selling a house, instead of feeling like the faster speed of buying and selling a financial asset (i.e. a publicly-traded stock or bond). The benefit of such a slower process is, like for real property, the chain of title for a patent can be seen on the USPTO database of assignment records.
Now, this project between IBM and IPwe attempts to combine the transparency of a recordation system with the speed of modern financial transactions by representing the ownership of a patent with an NFT, and recording that NFT on a public blockchain. IPwe plans on using its “Global Patent Marketplace” platform as the online marketplace for buying and selling patent NFTs, which IPwe expects to be working by the last quarter of 2021.