Pharmaceuticals giant Merck is seeking a patent for a way to use blockchain in order to track goods as they move through the supply chain. Published last Thursday and submitted in December 2016, the patent application outlines a method by which a blockchain could be used to store information about a physical object – in this case, a single product – and receive updates as it moves onward from its point of origin. That distributed network could then be used to store information verifying the authenticity of the item.
The main point here is anti-counterfeiting. Merck already maintains internal processes for eliminating fake goods that move through its systems, and the proposed patent seems as if it would fit into those wider efforts. Merck notes in its filing that the technology “enables a secure, reliable storage of the reading results with very high data integrity, such that it is essentially impossible to manipulate or erase or otherwise taper [sic] with or lose such data, e.g. due to unintended or deliberate deletion or due to data corruption.”
Furthermore, the stored information can be accessed wherever access to the blockchain is available. This allows for a safe and distributed storage and access to the stored reading results, e.g. for integrity verification purposes such as checking whether a supplier of a product being marked with a composite security marking, as described herein, was in fact the originator of the product, or not.
Whether Merck will move to “put pills on the blockchain” remains to be seen, but the company has pursued a number of initiatives to date within the technology space. The company is a member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, with a representative of the firm leading the group’s healthcare working group when it launched last year.