According to the United Nations, China is by far the leader in generative AI patent applications, followed by the United States.

Applications of AI

According to the United Nations intellectual property agency, China has filed far more patents for generative AI than any other country, with the United States coming in a distant second.

GENEVA — China has filed far more patents than any other country when it comes to generative AI, with the United States coming in a distant second, the United Nations intellectual property agency said Wednesday.

The technology has the potential to increase efficiency and speed scientific discovery, but it also raises employment and worker concerns, and is linked to about 54,000 inventions in the decade to 2023, according to a report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

More than a quarter of these inventions emerged in the last year, according to WIPO, a testament to the explosive growth and interest in generative AI since it became widely known to the public in the second half of 2022.

The new patent report is the first of its kind, aiming to track patent applications as a potential indicator of artificial intelligence trends. The report focuses only on generative AI, excluding the broader definition of artificial intelligence, which includes technologies such as facial recognition and computer vision.

“WIPO wants to help everyone better understand where this rapidly evolving technology is developing and where it's headed,” WIPO Director General Darren Tang told reporters.

In the 10 years since 2014, more than 38,200 GenAI inventions have come from China, six times more than the United States, which had about 6,300. This is followed by South Korea with 4,155, Japan with more than 3,400, and India with 1,350.

GenAI helps users create text, images, music, computer code and other content using tools such as OpenAI's ChatGPT, Google Gemini and China's Baidu's Ernie. The technology is being adopted across many industries, including life sciences, manufacturing, transportation, security and communications.

Some critics worry that GenAI could replace workers in certain occupations or exploit human-created content without fair and adequate compensation to its creators.

As with other types of patent applications, WIPO officials acknowledge that the quantity of GenAI patents is not an indication of quality: In the early stages of a technology, it is difficult to know which patents will have market value or be transformative to society.

“We'll see how the data and deployment evolves over time,” Tan said.

The United States and China are often seen as rivals in the development of artificial intelligence, but by some measures, American tech companies are leading the way in developing the world's most cutting-edge AI systems.

According to the Stanford University Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence's annual AI Index, 61 notable machine learning models will come from U.S.-based institutions in 2023, ahead of the European Union's 21 and China's 15. France had the most among EU countries with eight.

By another measure, the United States has the most so-called AI-based models, which are large, versatile and trained on huge datasets, including OpenAI's GPT-4, Anthropic's Claude 3, Gemini, and Meta's Llama.

The United States also leads China in private AI investment and number of new AI startups, and China also leads in industrial robotics.


Matt O'Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.


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