Applications for artificial intelligence patents surge
The U.S. and China are ahead of the competition in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), which has witnessed an “upsurge” in patent applications in recent years, according to a United Nations mandated report published late Thursday.
The report, prepared by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), said the “biggest untapped opportunities” lie outside the software industry in agriculture, healthcare and manufacturing.
WIPO noted that in the last five years, there has been a sharp increase in patent applications for devices and machines powered by AI – defined as the replication of human intelligence by machines.
It “suggests that it could soon revolutionize all areas of daily life far beyond the tech world,” WIPO Director General Francis Gurry told reporters in Geneva.
While research in AI began in the 1950s, the boom in AI scientific publications did not begin until 2001.
The report said 50 percent of all patents for AI have been published since 2013, adding up to more than 170,000 different patented ideas.
It noted that patent applications for machine learning currently dominant the field, adding the fastest-growing AI area is “deep learning”, which is used in speech recognition.
Gurry said although the U.S. and China dominate the field of patent applications, only a fraction of China’s patents are filed abroad.
U.S.-based tech giant IBM leads by the number of patent applications (8,290), followed by Microsoft (5,930), Japan’s Toshiba (5,223) and South Korea’s Samsung (5,102).
“Chinese organizations make up 17 of the top 20 academic players in AI patenting, as well as 10 of the top 20 in AI-related scientific publications,” Gurry said.
The report predicts that in the coming years, AI is set to grow with “major military and economic” uses.
However, Gurry insisted that WIPO member states need to discuss legal and ethical issues relating to intellectual property rights that have been raised by the technology.
He also said internet search giants including Google and Baidu (China) have also been key to the AI revolution.
“Internet giants are there…Because of data…because of the access they have to data,” he said in response to a question.
Gurry also underscored that the science behind the technology is “neutral”.
“Is it (AI) good news or bad news? Well, I would tend to say that all technology is somewhat neutral, and it depends on what you do with it,” he said when asked whether the world was better off because of the technology.