Chinese Gen AI researchers snagged more patents than everyone else combined since 2013

You think the US leads the field? Wrong – OpenAI is way down WIPO's charts

The World Intellectual Property Organization has counted the patents and scientific publications related to generative AI it could find between 2014 and 2023, and found 54,000 GenAI-related inventions and over 75,000 scientific publications – and that China utterly dominates the field.

The Org's Patent Landscape Report – Generative Artificial Intelligence, delivered on Wednesday, found 733 patent families – sets of patents related to a single invention and with the same technical content – on GenAI in 2014 ballooning to more than 14,000 in 2023.

Scientific papers on the topic also exploded – from 116 in 2014 to more than 34,000 in 2023. A quarter of all GenAI patents, and over 45 percent of all GenAI scientific papers, were published in 2023 alone.

China accounted for 38,210 inventions, while the US contributed a comparatively paltry 6,276. Chinese orgs also dominated the top ten entities that filed patents. Here's that list:

  • Tencent (2,074 inventions);
  • Ping An Insurance (1,564);
  • Baidu (1,234);
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences (607);
  • IBM (601);
  • Alibaba Group (571);
  • Samsung Electronics (468);
  • Alphabet (443);
  • ByteDance (418);
  • Microsoft (377);

In terms of patents granted, Tencent again topped the chart – ahead of Ping An Insurance, Baidu, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and IBM.

OpenAI ranks a lowly 335th in terms of scientific article publications, with just 48 published – but it has been cited 11,816 times. That makes the upstart the 13th-most acknowledged source of AI research.

Almost 18,000 GenAI patents pertained to images or video, followed by work on tech related to text, and a category WIPO termed "speech/voice/music." Just 239 patent families address "software/code" issues, making it the seventh-most common topic for GenAI patents.

Filings for patents related to "molecules/genes/proteins" were the sixth-most common topic, but that category has seen the highest growth in filings since 2018.

So maybe it's not time to dismiss all that "GenAI will invent the drugs of the future, now" hype.

WIPO also noted "very high growth rates in both smaller application areas such as agriculture and energy management and large fields such as life sciences, security and physical sciences/engineering." The org has also observed stagnating interest in GenAI as applied to telecommunications, military, arts and humanities, and a category it describes as "industrial property/law/social and behavioral sciences."

China's dominance of GenAI IP might not be all that significant – many patents and papers in all fields do not discuss important innovations.

But China may have stolen a march: Beijing has prioritized AI research for years. It was only in 2023 that US president Biden declared the time had come to ensure the United States "leads the way in seizing the promise and managing the risks of artificial intelligence."

And that statement came in the context of an "Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence" that was more about preventing harm than encouraging research. ®

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