China leading generative AI patents race, UN report says

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) – China is far ahead of other countries in generative AI inventions like chatbots, filing six times more patents than its closest rival the United States, U.N. data showed on Wednesday.

Generative AI, which produces text, images, computer code and even music from existing information, is exploding with more than 50,000 patent applications filed in the past decade, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which oversees a system for countries to share recognition of patents.

A quarter of them were filed in 2023 alone, it said.

“This is a booming area this is an area that is growing at increasing speed. And it’s somewhere that we expect to grow even more,” Christopher Harrison, WIPO Patent Analytics Manager, told reporters.

More than 38,000 GenAI inventions were filed by China between 2014-2023 versus 6,276 filed by the United States over the same period, WIPO said.

Harrison said the Chinese patent applications covered a broad area of sectors from autonomous driving to publishing to document management.

South Korea, Japan and India were ranked third, fourth and fifth respectively, with India growing at the fastest rate, the data showed.

Among the top applicants were China’s ByteDance – which owns video app TikTok – Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, and Microsoft, a backer of startup OpenAI which created ChatGPT.

While chatbots with the ability to mimic human discourse are already being widely used by retailers and others to improve customer service, GenAI has the potential to transform many other economic sectors like science, publishing, transportation or security, WIPO’s Harrison said.

“The patent data suggests this is an area that is going to have a profound impact across many different industrial sectors going forward,” said WIPO’s Harrison, highlighting the scientific sector where GenAI-created molecules have the potential to expedite drug development.

WIPO said it expects a further wave of patents to be filed soon and plans to release a future update of the data, possibly using GenAI to illustrate the trend.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Aurora Ellis)