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The end of 2017 was marked by a record high price of Bitcoin: $20 000. Yet, the astonishing growth was soon changed by a sharp drop of almost 80%, which caused everyone to think they had just witnessed a major cryptocurrency bubble burst. This event marked the end of the best days for Bitcoin. On the contrary, the blockchain technology continues to develop and find application across industries and sectors. Large banks and corporations, such as IBM, Microsoft and Bank of America, have started to integrate blockchain into data storage mechanisms, biometric security procedures and adopted solutions based on smart contracts. Suddenly, the world found itself investing billions into the research and integration of blockchain based developments, which were far from initial limits of cryptocurrency.
Since its introduction about ten years ago, the hype around blockchain has been massive. However, many were unconvinced and quite skeptical about the possible consequences, calling such popularity level unjustified. Despite that, the number of blockchain related patent applications from international giants has almost doubled between 2017 and 2018. Among the top five of such pioneers are IBM, Alibaba, Mastercard and China Union. This eagerness to explore the opportunities that blockchain can bring might bear the danger of monopolization by the powerful few, which goes in contrast with the essential goal of decentralization. The companies are rarely transparent and explicit about their motivations and intentions, which creates a sense of anxiety and potential abuse of the acquired know-how. If these companies manage to successfully satisfy market needs with in-house blockchain developments, they might as well begin to license the technology to other actors, willing to pursue the path. Some fear that the patenting efforts of large organizations might be part of a bigger effort to stop newcomers from developing disruptive solutions. As the technology becomes more widespread, the means to restrict it become sharper as well.
After less than ten years since its launch, blockchain has made the path from a public technology, mainly related to cryptocurrency, to a powerful engine for various private businesses. The explorative efforts of companies all around the world are growing, with new participants constantly entering the race for the development of new innovative solutions and products. The direction blockchain is heading to is still quite blurred and the world still has to wait in order to see whether the big blockchain pioneers are willing to promote innovation or rather prevent the disruption of the established business models.