The National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) and Korea Intellectual Property Strategy Agency (KISTA) announced on Feb. 24 that the United States led global patent applications from 2012 to 2016 in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, cloud computing and 3D printing, led by the energetic patent-related activities of the companies including IBM and Microsoft.
The foundation and the agency said that South Korea ranked second during the period in terms of the number of applied patents, with the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) and Samsung Electronics putting their names on the top five applicant list, yet South Korea still has a far way to go when it comes to core and original technology-related patents.
Patent applications related to the fields of Industry 4.0 began to be filed in quantity in the early 2000s and the number has soared since 2008. The United States accounted for 63.3 percent of the total from 2012 to 2016 with 20,505 applications, followed by South Korea (15.7 percent), Japan (12.6 percent) and the European Union (8.4 percent).
The United States topped the list in each of the five fields. Specifically, its patent applications totaled 7,759 in AI and 2,136 in 3D printing. South Korea’s patent applications added up to 2,003 in AI, 1,631 in IoT, 562 in 3D printing, 479 in cloud computing and 442 in big data. AI is where the difference between the United States and South Korea is largest and 3D printing is where the gap is narrowest. During the period, the United States accounted for 67.6 percent of all patents in the field of cloud computing and 41.8 percent of those in 3D printing.
When it comes to cites per patent, which indicates the qualitative competitiveness of patents, the United States came in first with 5.64 and it was followed by Japan (4.97), Germany (3.56) and South Korea (2.98). The United States is much ahead of South Korea in terms of the quality of AI and cloud computing patents and slightly ahead of South Korea in terms of the quality of IoT and big data patents.
The top 10 applicant list, in the meantime, includes eight U.S. companies. IBM took the top spot with 1,906, followed by Microsoft (1,236), ETRI (747), Samsung Electronics (730), Qualcomm (453), Hitachi (373), Sony (361) and Google (342). IBM, Microsoft, Hitachi and Sony focused on patent applications in AI while Qualcomm concentrated on the IoT. ETRI and Samsung Electronics did so in the fields of IoT and AI, respectively.
As for Industry 4.0-related litigation, the average number of lawsuits was 17 with the number at 21 in 3D printing and 50 in AI. The number was relatively small in big data (four), IoT (15) and cloud computing (five), which implies a large number of AI-related patent disputes may arise down the road.