Babbitt column 丨 Patent or open source, how to choose a blockchain project?

1. Popular patents and "useless" patents

In the traditional industry, if a company applies for a patent, it is a very good thing, especially for a specific enterprise in a specific industry, such as an industrial manufacturing enterprise. If it is an invention patent, it is even better.

Many companies, after having their own patents, will spend heavily on propaganda reports in major media. There are many large companies that take the number of patents as a symbol of their company's technical strength and research and development strength, and disclose it as important data in financial reports, prospectuses, company websites, and industry reports.

However, it is interesting to note that in the blockchain industry, patents suddenly seem to be less popular.

People have two attitudes towards patents. One is a pragmatic attitude. Large companies like Alibaba and Tencent apply for a large number of blockchain patents every year. Data shows that Alibaba has more than 1,000 blockchain patents, and There are more than 200 international patents, ranking first in the number of global blockchain patents for three consecutive years; Tencent's patents are not in the minority. For example, Weixin Bank, a subsidiary of Tencent, has more than 200 patents in 2019.

On the other hand, many people think that the core characteristics of the blockchain are decentralization and open source. The essence of the idea of ​​the blockchain should be an agreement. The agreement does not pay attention to patent barriers. The blockchain does not have the so-called moat. It should be that the more people use their own code, the better. It should welcome competitors to copy themselves instead of using patents to isolate opponents.

In their view, the core spirit of patents is closure and monopoly, and the core spirit of blockchain is openness and cooperation. The so-called patents are just giants' continued misunderstandings of the Internet era. Some people even think that it is a shame that an open source project claims how many patents it has.

Both perspectives seem to make sense, so how do we look at patents?

Second, the problem of patents is essentially a question of the development path of the blockchain

How to view the patents of the blockchain industry depends on how you view the blockchain industry itself; the debate over blockchain patents is actually rooted in differences in understanding of the development path of the blockchain industry itself.

At present, although the future of the blockchain industry is recognized in the market, there are many disputes about the specific development route. For example, should the blockchain be based on the alliance chain or the public chain? Is it necessary to issue coins? Is decentralization really necessary? and many more.

Taking the question of "whether the blockchain should be dominated by the alliance chain or by the public chain" as an example, those who support the public chain say that the alliance chain does not change the soup, and that the alliance chain cannot solve the incentive problem. There is no way to form a large-scale strong collaboration, it is just a technological progress, not a revolution; those who support the alliance chain say that the public chain cannot land and is not recognized by the state.

For example, the question of "Does the blockchain need to issue coins?" Those who support the issue of tokens say that tokens can realize the digitalization of assets, large-scale strong collaboration, and the effective transfer of value, which is of great significance; do not support the issue of coins Some people say that the blockchain can certainly be separated from the development currency. They believe that the currencyless blockchain allows information to be transmitted more effectively. They believe that the currencyless blockchain will even become mainstream for a long time to come.

For another example, on the question of "is decentralization necessary", those who support decentralization say that decentralization is an essential characteristic of the blockchain; those who oppose it say that complete decentralization is not related to the real world. Compatible, and complete decentralization does not even exist at all.

There are many more such discussions, and such discussions will continue indefinitely. Does the discussion itself make sense? Of course it makes sense, after all, the truth is unclear, but too much discussion goes into metaphysics.

Concepts, theories and other things have their own limitations, and often have a strong emotional color, which is easy to do either. The real life is always colorful, flexible, compatible and has many dimensions. When theory and reality conflict, we should not hesitate to abandon theory and choose reality.

Patent & Alliance Chain vs. Open Source & Public Chain

Let's forget those concepts and theories for the time being, and cut back to the perspective of reality to see what is happening in reality.

Taking the content disclosed in the Tencent blockchain white paper as an example, let's take a look at what the alliance chain is doing in real life, and how is it doing?

In the blockchain white paper released by Tencent in 2019, many landing projects are introduced, and there are several of them that are most representative:

The first: Tencent and Shenzhen Municipal Taxation Bureau set up a "smart tax" innovation laboratory to develop the tax chain and open up the whole process management of electronic invoice issuance, reimbursement, declaration and review, helping the regulator to save costs and improve efficiency while paying taxes People provide more user-friendly services. Today, there are more than 2,000 companies connected. As of August 5, 2019, to the first anniversary of the blockchain electronic invoice, nearly 6 million invoices have been issued. 44,000 tickets were issued, with a cumulative billing amount of 3.9 billion yuan.

No. 2: The "micro-enterprise chain" supply chain financial platform jointly created by Tencent and its partners introduced Tencent's wealth management channels, banks, private equity funds, factoring companies and other types of funding channels, and successfully cooperated with Skyworth, McDonald's, Digital Guangdong More than a dozen core companies have cooperated. In May this year, the ABS project of non-specific debtors was approved with a storage rack scale of 10 billion.

No. 3: In the judicial field, the infrastructure in the field of intelligent justice jointly created by Tencent, China Net Security and Beiming Software has been recognized by the Supreme People's Court, and several high-level people's courts have joined the letter chain as an authoritative node. There are more than 10 million pieces of certificate data on the chain.

There are many such cases. These data are very impressive. People often say that the blockchain has not landed. From these data, the landing of the blockchain seems to be more optimistic than people think.

On the one hand, the development of the alliance chain is in full swing, on the other hand, the development of the public chain is not far behind.

In addition to the traditional BTC, ETH, and EOS public chains occupying the three main traffic inlets of payment, financing, and DAPP, the new staking economy, Defi finance, and cross-chain and asset on-chain have all become the new development directions of the public chain.

The staking economic model seems to have become a new trend; Defi Finance has been recognized as the next main battlefield of the blockchain public chain, and it has become a battleground for the soldiers of major public chains; asset on-chain is considered to be the future of the blockchain , Is the ultimate form of blockchain landing, and each of these directions may correspond to a trillion-dollar market.

Regarding the development path of the public chain and the alliance chain, I have thought about understanding the blockchain from the perspective of a database-for example, a private chain is equivalent to a private database; an alliance chain is equivalent to an alliance jointly maintaining a database. Internally shared, externally confidential; public chain is equivalent to a completely open source database. In this case, if your business does not need to cooperate with others, then your data does not need to be shared with others, then you can use a private database directly; if your business needs to cooperate with several business related parties, you need to cross provinces City cooperation, the data needs to be shared with them, but do not want to be completely open to the public, then you can use the multi-party database of the alliance chain directly; if your business is directly facing the world, then you may need a public database, then you Use a public chain.

Understanding the blockchain from a database perspective is wonderful. Many abstract issues have become concrete. For example, whether to issue coins. If it is an alliance chain and a private chain, there is basically no need to issue coins, everyone's interests and speaking rights are clearly distributed, and it is easy to implement; if it is a public chain, maintaining its public database is a great cost, such as Bitcoin The account book is up to several hundred G, which requires a large cost to maintain, so it must have enough incentives, so it cannot be separated from the currency; for example, why is the government level most actively embracing the blockchain? And why is the government's blockchain business the fastest to land? For example, the IRS and Tencent jointly launched a blockchain invoice business. For example, the Supreme People's Court recognized the legal effect of blockchain certificate. For example, the latest news is that the Hangzhou government has developed its own government blockchain. To solve the problem of database property rights and incentives, as soon as the administrative level promotes and orders are issued, all departments will cooperate, and the relevant business departments will contribute the data and put it on the chain.

What kind of business you have, you choose what kind of database, you choose what kind of chain, you choose what kind of development route, you choose whether to apply for a patent or open source.

Everything is determined by actual needs, and everything is not determined by theory. In reality, each business project has different business scenarios, and different business scenarios correspond to the use of different chains, each with its own functions and its own application scope. Some need strong decentralization, some do not need; some need to issue coins, some do not; some need patents, and some need open source; the entire world is large and it can accommodate a variety of bright technologies and scenarios.

Not to mention anything else, I think that at least these underlying technologies related to databases can of course be patented , and it is reported that more than 70% of blockchain international patents are related to the infrastructure and underlying technologies. , Transaction processing methods and smart contracts are the three technologies with the most patents, with 125, 34 and 28 respectively.

In addition, in the fields of supply chain finance and blockchain invoices, I think that if Tencent's blockchain is useful for some innovative technologies in these areas, it can also be patented. After all, different companies, different It is also necessary to compete between chains and between different alliances. Profit is the essence of business. They also need to protect their core competitiveness with patents.

Fourth, proceed from reality

Can the blockchain have patents? Yes, of course!

Does the blockchain need to be open source? Yes, of course!

Do patents and open source conflict? No conflict! We are in the age of the Internet. There are a large number of patents and a large number of open source projects, but they do not conflict and coexist very well.

What really matters is not concepts and theories, but reality!

Open source has the advantages of open source, and patents have the role of patents. We do not have to confine ourselves to a certain development direction, or stay in the game of some concepts and theories. What ordinary users really need is a product. As long as the product is good, whether you are centralized or decentralized, whether you have a patent or not, they will pay for it; as long as your product is not good, even if your concept is more advanced, the direction No matter how right, people will not pay.

As they said: "The purpose of open source is to facilitate the construction of ecology, the purpose of patents is to protect intellectual property rights, which is a different business model path;" "If you do a technology to build your own barriers, then apply for a patent, If you are doing this technology to build your own influence and want to become the industry standard, then open source. "

At present, the blockchain industry is still in the early stages of development. There is no reliable theory to support it. All we can do is to start from reality and explore step by step. In Grandpa Xiaoping's words, it is "cross the river by feeling the stones." This stone is the reality.

In reality, if patents are useful, then we will apply for more patents; if open source is better, then we will do a good job in open source projects. Most of the time, each has its own use, and each has its own application scenario, so in most cases we are "grasping with both hands, both hands must be hard."