China and the USA are leading in the global race to cultivate AI talent and technologies, a new study by the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) revealed yesterday.
In an analysis of international patent filings, scientific publications, litigation files, and acquisition activity, the WIPO study found that there had been as many patent applications for AI since 2013 as in the half-century since the term was first coined in the 1950s. Patent applications in machine learning averaged an annual growth of 28 percent between 2013 and 2016.
Much of this growth comes from deep learning, which ballooned from 118 patent applications in 2013 to 2,399 in 2016. The most popular AI application was computer vision, mentioned in 49 percent of all AI-related patents.
Notably, the study outlines the key battlegrounds for different AI markets. It found that US-based IBM has the largest AI patent portfolio, with 8,920 patents, ahead of Microsoft with 5,930. Meanwhile, China accounts for 17 of the top 20 academic institutions involved in patenting AI, with particular strengths in deep learning.
“The US and China obviously have stolen a lead. They’re out in front in this area, in terms of numbers of applications, and in scientific publications,” WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry told a news conference.
The report arrives in the context of an escalating US-Chinese trade war, which most recently saw President Trump accuse China of economic espionage and intellectual property theft.