Recently, U.S.-based Bank of America filed a patent related to the storage of private keys used in cryptocurrencies. It now has more than 50 patents related to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. The bank, which is the 2nd largest in the United States, has been in a cryptocurrency patent race with other leading technology players, such as Alibaba and IBM, and so far it is winning. At the same time, the company has been publically critical of the cryptocurrency industry, and many believe that it is collecting the patents only as a way to appear that they are taking fintech seriously. In March of 2014, the bank filed its first blockchain patent for a system that facilitates wire transfers of cryptocurrency. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved the patent a year and a half later. The system was the first cryptocurrency application developed by a major bank, and it came on the heels of a 2013 report from a trio of its strategists entitled "Bitcoin: a First Assessment." The report indicated that Bitcoin could become a serious player in e-commerce payments and that it could potentially grow as a medium of exchange. In December of 2015, the patent office awarded the bank 10 separate patents related to cryptocurrencies. Just one month later, the bank filed another 20 patents related to blockchain technology. Catherine Bessant, who is the bank's Chief Operations and Technology Officer, said at the time that the technology was fascinating and that the bank wanted to stay in the forefront of it. By June of this year, the bank had acquired the most active cryptocurrency-related patents. Its biggest competitor in the banking world is Royal Bank of Canada, which currently holds 8 patents related to the technology. However, this past spring the bank famously banned its credit card customers from buying cryptocurrencies and called Bitcoin "troubling." It also stated in its annual report that it considers cryptocurrencies both a competitor and a threat. This has led some to wonder if the bank will ever actually do anything with their patents. Some bank insiders even believe that the patents have only been filed to attract press coverage.
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