The meteoric rise of artificial intelligence over the last year has sent tech companies scrambling to find new ways to develop and deploy AI technology in their products and processes. Companies that have developed or are in the process of developing something unique or innovative that uses AI technology often seek patents to protect their invention in this promising frontier.
A new patent study by IFI Claims has revealed that the U.S. tech giants IBM, Google, and Microsoft lead the way as the companies with most GenAI patent applications. IBM is not only leading the GenAI race with 1,591 applications, but they have three times more applications than Google, which is at second spot. Other firms in the top 10 include Samsung, Adobe, Intel, Capital One, and Baidu.
IFI Claims, a Digital Science company, is one of the most trusted patent data providers in the industry. It tracks and compiles data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and other patent-issuing agencies around the globe.
For their methodology to analyze patent applications, IFI Claims noted that with newer technologies, such as GenAI, it can take time for new patent classifications to emerge. However, for the purpose of this study, IFI Claims created a system to identify AI and generative AI-related patent filings. This included tailoring a query that uses technologies currently in play for GenAI – currently the most popular form of AI.
According to the IFI Claims study, one in five AI-related patent applications deals with GenAI. IFI Claims reported that GenAI applications have grown at a compound annual rate of 31 percent over the past five years, while the granted applications have grown at 16 percent.
As a patent leader for various applications for almost three decades, IBM has been an intellectual property powerhouse. However, in 2020 the tech giant shared that they would no longer pursue patent leadership. They would focus on key areas rather than patenting all its inventions. AI was marked as one of the key areas.
Surprisingly, ChatGPT owner and AI pioneer OpenAI is not even in the top 25 companies on the list. According to the IFI Claims, OpenAI has only one patent application. You would expect a knowledge-based AI company to have more patent applications, however, OpenAI may have recent filings that have not yet been made public or could be protecting its intellectual property through trade secrets.
While AI-related patent applications are just one indicator of innovation, it does show the research intensity and interest of a company in artificial intelligence. It also shows that the great AI push is more than just marketing.
Moreover, patent applications are strong indicators of where businesses see future innovation and technological value. While the overall AI adoption rates are still low, the high number of patent applications highlights that we can expect more AI innovation from companies in the future.
All the patents analyzed by IFI Claims are for a human-made invention. One of the big emerging questions is how we would handle inventions produced by AI itself. Traditional patent laws and processes are unlikely to be adequate or efficient. Perhaps this is a question for the future when AI becomes more advanced. However, with the rapid pace that the technology is growing, that time might come sooner than expected.