A smart contract is a computer protocol designed to digitally verify or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract. Smart contracts are self-executing, with the terms of the agreement between the parties being directly written into lines of code.
Chinese E-commerce conglomerate Alibaba has filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a blockchain-based system that allows a third-party administrator to intervene in a smart contract in case of illegal activities.
The authors of the document emphasize that while blockchain technology has a number of advantageous features like openness, unchangeability, and decentralization, it still does not provide conditions applied to specific cases in a real-life environment. The patent explains:
“In real life, however, there is a type of administrative intervention activities in the category of special transactions. For example, when a user performs illegal activities, a court order may be executed to freeze the user’s account. However, this operation activity conflicts with smart contracts in existing blockchains and cannot be carried out.”
However, upgradeable contracts are far more complex than usual smart contracts, which can make them more susceptible to bugs. The new Alibaba technology would purportedly expand the ability of administrators across an entire network, in addition to simplifying the amending a smart contract.