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WIPO’s First “Technology Trends” Study Probes Artificial Intelligence: IBM and Microsoft Are Leaders Amid Recent Global Upsurge in AI Inventive Activity

A new World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) flagship study has documented a massive recent surge in artificial intelligence-based inventions, with U.S.-based companies IBM and Microsoft leading the pack as AI has moved from the theoretical realm toward the global marketplace in recent years.

The first publication in the “WIPO Technology Trends” series defines and measures innovations in artificial intelligence (AI), uncovering more than 340,000 AI-related patent applications and 1.6 million scientific papers published since AI first emerged in the 1950s, with the majority of all AI-related patent filings published since 2013.

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This inaugural Technology Trends report provides a common information base on AI for policy and decision makers in government and business, as well as concerned citizens across the globe, who are grappling with the ramifications of a new technology that promises to upend many areas of economic, social and cultural activity.

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“Patenting activity in the artificial intelligence realm is rising at a rapid pace, meaning we can expect a very significant number of new AI-based products, applications and techniques that will alter our daily lives – and also shape future human interaction with the machines we created,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry.

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“AI’s ramifications for the future of human development are profound. The first step in maximizing the widespread benefit of AI, while addressing ethical, legal and regulatory challenges, is to create a common factual basis for understanding of artificial intelligence. In unveiling the first in our “WIPO Technology Trends” series, WIPO is pleased to contribute evidence-based projections, thereby informing global policymaking on the future of AI, its governance and the IP framework that supports it,” said Mr. Gurry.

  • AI-related patenting is growing rapidly, with more than half of the identified inventions published since 2013.
  • Companies represent 26 out of the top 30 AI patent applicants, with universities or public research organizations accounting for the remaining four.
  • United States-based IBM had the largest portfolio of AI patent applications with 8,290 inventions at the end of 2016, followed by U.S.-based Microsoft Corp. with 5,930. Rounding out the top five applicants are: Japan-based Toshiba Corp. (5,223), Samsung Group, of Republic of Korea (5,102) and NEC Group, of Japan (4,406).
  • Chinese organizations account for 3 of the 4 academic players featuring in the top 30.

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