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China leads the patents race for generative AI, with Tencent and Baidu topping the list

TIANJIN, CHINA – JUNE 20: A humanoid robot Xiao Qi is on display during the 2024 World Intelligence Expo at the National Convention and Exhibition Center (Tianjin) on June 20, 2024 in Tianjin, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
Vcg | Visual China Group | Getty Images

China dominates the global race in generative artificial intelligence patents, filing more than 38,000 patents from 2014 to 2023, a new United Nations report on Thursday showed.

That’s six times more than those filed by U.S.-based inventors, the UN World Intellectual Property Organization said.

Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence that allows users to generate content such as text, images, music, audio, and videos.

Geographically, China leads with 38,210 inventions, far surpassing the U.S. (6,276), Republic of Korea (4,155), Japan (3,409) and India (1,350).

Generative AI patents currently make up 6% of total AI patents in the world, according to the report.

“The sharp rise in patenting activity reflects the recent technological advances and the potential within GenAI,” the report said.

Top 10 Gen AI patents applicants from 2014 to 2023

Number of patents
Tencent 2,074
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
Source: UN

China has sought to catch up with ChatGPT owner OpenAI and U.S. tech titans Microsoft, Alphabet‘s Google and Amazon in the development of large language models (LLM), after being late to the game.

ChatGPT took the world by storm in November 2022 for its ability to generate humanlike responses to users’ prompts.

Last year, Chinese tech giants including Alibaba and Baidu launched their own LLMs to challenge their U.S. counterparts.

In a bid to cement its presence in the global tech race, China launched a three-year ”action plan” in May to strengthen standards in AI chips, generative AI and build up national computing power, aimed at driving technological and economic development.

“China has [a] hugely untapped market for consumers and also for business, industry partners to innovate and help to bring generative AI technologies [in] different applications or industries, using different specialized data sets,” Wei Sun, senior consultant of artificial research at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” Thursday.

“That’s the key for China to win, to really have the real world application deployments that might surpass the U.S. in this area.”

Image and video data dominated the Gen AI patents with 17,996 inventions, followed by text (13,494) and speech or music (13,480), according to the UN report.

By analyzing patenting trends and data, the agency said it aims to help policymakers “shape the development of GenAI for our common benefit.”

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