U.S.-based digital currency exchange Coinbase has filed a patent on a new bitcoin payment system designed to make cryptocurrency payments safer. The new platform will provide an added layer of security for users’ keys and allow them to make bitcoin payments directly from their digital wallets.
A segment of the patent filing states, “It may be a security concern for users that the private keys of their Bitcoin addresses may be stolen from their wallets. Existing systems do not provide a solution for maintaining security over private keys while still allowing the users to checkout [sic] on a merchant page and making payments using their wallets.”
If approved, the system would work by allowing customers to encrypt their passphrases into a master key to create an additional buffer against theft. The master key encrypts customers’ private keys and whatever transactions are made. Once a transaction is complete, the master key is deleted, ensuring no outside party can gain access to the information. A new master key is created for each transaction.
Another novel element of the system is its “freeze logic,” which would allow administrators to suspend the system and prevent transactions from occurring in the event of a theft or cyberattack. The patent reads, “At any point in time after the master key is loaded, the system can be frozen. The system can be unfrozen after it has been frozen using keys from the key ceremony. The checkout process can be carried out when the system is frozen and when the system is unfrozen. The payment process can only be carried out when the system is unfrozen and not when the system is frozen.”
Lastly, the application proposes API integration capabilities, which would enable various websites to run versions of the payment system. The API uses a specific pair of keys – one of which is stored on the corresponding website, the other on Coinbase – that must match for a transaction to be approved and completed.
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This is not the first time Coinbase has filed for such a patent. The company had tried for something similar nine times in 2015 alone, leading critics to accuse the exchange of trying to build a monopoly on bitcoin services. CEO Brian Armstrong denied this, saying that the company’s goal was to keep blockchain technology away from “patent trolls.”
“One of the best ways to defend against patent trolls is to build your own portfolio of patents, and this is exactly what we are doing, along with just about every other tech company out there,” he wrote in a blog post. “It is an unfortunate game we all must play, but we didn’t invent the rules.”
The company also filed a patent in 2016 to potentially secure Bitcoin-based private keys.
In addition to Coinbase, several traditional financial institutions have filed for blockchain-based patents. Bank of America filed approximately 50 live patents in the blockchain space, more than any other venture. Software giant IBM also has several under its belt, including one for “node characterization in blockchain,” which would allow a distributed ledger to house a series of nodes characterized by specific functions.
Last year in June, delivery company UPS also filed a blockchain patent for what it calls the “autonomous services selection system and distributed transportation database.” Whenever something is delivered from one point to another, it must go through multiple networks and segments before it reaches its destination. This makes it difficult for logistics services to coordinate with one another. The patented system would generate sets of transportation data that is then stored securely on a blockchain and easily tracked to ensure logistics companies meet handling requirements appropriately.