China spearheads AI innovation: top 10 firms shaping the future of new tech

Most of the generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) patents come out of China, which far outpaces the US in terms of innovation.

Interestingly enough, OpenAI filed its first patents only in 2023. A new report from the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) assesses that is because the company was founded as a non-profit. Now, OpenAI has six patents, with three of them still pending approval.

While OpenAI’s ChatGPT has become somewhat synonymous with GenAI in general, it is not American inventions that seem to be shaping the technological future. The release of ChatGPT in November 2022 might have been “an iPhone” moment, but the UN report claims that China is where most GenAI technologies are being invented.

38,000 and then some - that’s how many patents China-based institutions have registered in less than a decade. The US, despite leading all the fuss in the Western media, is far behind with nearly 6,300 patents.

China AI patent

Companies with the most patents in GenAI

According to the report, image and video inventions dominate patents, followed by text, speech, and music.

Here’s the top 10 institutions spearheading the GenAI innovation:

1. Tencent (China) - 2,074 patents

2. Ping An Insurance Group (China) - 1,564

3. Baidu (China) - 1,234

4. The Chinese Academy of Sciences - 607

5. IBM (US) - 601

6. Alibaba (China) - 571

7. Samsung Electronics (The Republic of Korea) - 468

8. Alphabet/Google (US) - 443

9. ByteDance (China) - 418

10. Microsoft (US) - 377

AI patent companies

China is also in the lead in terms of scientific publications on the topic. The Chinese Academy of Sciences stands out, having published over 1,100 publications since 2010 - nearly double the amount of Tsinghua University and Stanford University (600 publications each).

However, more is not always the merrier, as the report claims that Google’s publications have the highest impact, judging by the number of citations.

Then, of course, there’s OpenAI again. While the organization published only 48 articles, they were quoted nearly 12,000 times.

Researchers behind the UN report claim to have “very limited visibility” on recent patent trends as most are published only a year and a half after their filing.

“We can expect a wave of related patents very soon, especially as the success of ChatGPT has driven innovation in a wide range of applications.”

Is AI taking the world by storm? Or is China taking the AI world by storm? Who’s to tell?

However, no matter the country or the company, the rapid innovation in the field leaves researchers and citizens alike both excited and worried.

Here are the main concerns, as listed by the report:

  • GenAI could lead to significant job losses across different industries. Sure, there will be new professions created along the way, but some jobs will become obsolete. “Moreover, unlike previous waves of automation, which mainly affected middle-skilled workers, the risks of AI displacement extend to certain higher-paid positions such as certain types of data analysts, market research analysts, bookkeepers or paralegals.”
  • AI-created content might lead to copyright infringement. There are debates on whether major AI companies should train their models on artists’ data, especially without their explicit permission, and how to treat a work of art made by a human but with AI assistance.
  • Deepfakes. Realistic videos resembling a real person can and are being created easily. Threat actors keep abusing this technology for malicious purposes, such as propaganda campaigns and financial gain.
  • Biased models. Chatbots hallucinate at times. Also, they are trained on somewhat biased data and might be inaccurate when it comes, for example, to people of color.