If attorneys were hoping that case law would be given a chance to catch up before the use of blockchain spread any further, they may want to sit down. Yesterday, IBM and global patent market IPwe announced plans to create an infrastructure that would allow patents to be represented as non-fungible tokens (NFTs)—digital files on a blockchain ledger that show who owns a piece of digital content—by the end of 2021.

While some lawyers have recently zeroed in on NFT-related litigation given the scant amount of case law on the subject, others have been tracking the patent implications even longer. “The use of blockchain is something that people in the intellectual property space have been pushing for quite a few years now,” said Ali Dhanani, a partner at Baker Botts.