Patent applications are a good indicator of the nature of technological progress. The number of artificial intelligence (AI) patents granted has increased rapidly around the world. In the June issue of the RIETI Report, we present the column "Trends and priority shifts in artificial intelligence technology invention: A global patent analysis" by Hidemichi Fuji, assistant professor at Nagasaki University, and Faculty Fellow Shunsuke Managi, which is based on a RIETI Discussion Paper.
Fuji et al. give an overview of the AI patent situation in the United States, China, Japan, Patent Cooperation Treaty, European Patent Office, and other countries. All of these countries published the highest number of patents from 2015-2016 except for Japan, which could be interpreted as the Japanese market being less attractive for AI technology application. Some other trends include a different focus on model types for AI patents granted to Chinese and Japanese universities compared to U.S. universities. Another finding was that Japanese companies have strong incentives to obtain AI patents from the USPTO, whereas there are less incentives for U.S. companies to obtain AI patents from the JPO, indicating that big data use creates an advantage for the U.S. market with respect to AI technology application. Finally, it was determined that in the 2000-2002 period, the priority of AI technology patent invention shifted from a specific model to another one, while in the 2012-2016 period, the number of patents granted substantially increased for all four AI technologies.