IBM, UPS Applied for Blockchain-Related Patents, USPTO Files Reveal

The two companies are continuing their development of the emerging technology.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Thursday awarded several blockchain-related patents to companies including IBM and United Parcel Service (UPS).


US tech giant IBM, which is present in USPTO’s filings on a regular basis, filed on February 13, 2017, an application for its invention called “node characterization in blockchain.” The new system would allow a distributed ledger to have a node or a series of nodes characterized for different functions, which would bring new insights to the network.

For example, a three-node blockchain used for digital currency transfers might have one of its nodes characterized for anti-money laundering (AML), so that this node would analyze whether or not transactions exceed a certain daily limit or whether they are conducted by a tracked entity. The information is automatically introduced in the insights logs and then can be checked by a regulatory authority connected to that node. The characterization process is achieved through what are called “callback functions.”

According to the description, types of characterization might refer to text mining, entity extraction, compliance, information analysis and discovery, semantic extraction, and ontology-based entity discovery.


On June 22, 2017, UPS filed a patent application for its invention titled “autonomous services selection system and distributed transportation database(s).” The patent is not directly referred to blockchain, but it favors the application of this technology.

According to the description, when a shipment unit, whether it’s an object, material, container, vehicle, or something else, has to be carried from an origin to a destination, it might go through multiple segments or transportation networks responsible for the transportation of the unit through the different phases until the destination point. Thus, it might be difficult for the logistics service to coordinate the transportation through these multiple segments, especially when there are handling requirements for carrying the shipment unit.

As a solution, the shipment unit can generate a set of transportation data that is stored on blockchain and can be easily tracked so that the logistics company could make sure the handling requirements are met and the shipment is carried according to the plan.

UPS is seriously considering blockchain implementation for its logistics strategies. The company joined the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance (BiTA) last year.