China is far outpacing other leading nations in filing generative AI (GenAI) patents, with more than 38,000 inventions coming from the country in the last decade, United Nations (UN) data showed.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a UN agency, stated 54,000 GenAI patents were filed between 2014 and 2023, with more than 25 per cent of them emerging in the last year alone.

The findings, published in a new WIPO report, showed China had more than six times that of second-place US, with South Korea, Japan and India rounding out the top five.

The growth has been rapid, with the number of GenAI patents increasing eightfold since the 2017 introduction of deep neural network architecture behind large language models, “that have become synonymous with GenAI”, stated WIPO.

However, the agency added that GenAI patents still only represent 6 per cent of all AI patents globally. China internet giant Tencent was the leading applicant over the period, filing 2,074 patents. Baidu, IBM, Alibaba, Samsung, Alphabet and Microsoft were also named in the report.

Use cases cover a diverse range of sectors, including life sciences, document management and publishing, industry and telecoms.

WIPO director general Daren Tang said that through analysing patent trends and data, the agency aimed to “give everyone a better understanding of where this fast-evolving technology is being developed, and where it is headed”.

“This can help policymakers shape the development of GenAI for our common benefit and to ensure that we continue to put the human being at the centre of our innovation and creative ecosystems,” he added.