Artificial intelligence (AI) is a definitive force of the new round of technological revolution and industrial change, and has become the focus of international competition and industrial policy efforts in various countries. Driven by technological innovation, AI has been deeply integrated with all walks of life, propelling high-quality development and reshaping the world economy and human society.
AI platforms represented by deep learning frameworks and AI chips are becoming the infrastructure of companies, enabling intelligent transformation and enhancing productivity. AI technology applications such as intelligent driving, smart city, and smart healthcare have emerged at an accelerated pace. Against such a background, every ordinary person in reality can feel the power of AI in promoting social development and change. AI still epitomizes a new era in human imagination, but its close connection with reality has never been as real and tangible as it is today.
AI technology not only impacts modern work and life, but also is embodies vividly in a series of patent data. In January 2019, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) published the report “WIPO Technology Trends 2019 – Artificial Intelligence”, in which Baidu, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the like were identified as the world’s AI front runners. Furthermore, Baidu was the only Chinese company among the top 30 with its second highest number of deep learning patent applications filed. The following two years have witnessed Chinese AI-related companies and research institutions develop by leaps and bounds. On September 25, 2021, Questel, a global leading provider of intellectual property database services, released the report “Deep Learning: 2021 patent landscape”. On September 26, at the first edition of the China Digital Social Forum 2021 (CDS Forum) hosted by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), the Intellectual Property Center of the CAICT released the report “Artificial Intelligence Open Source Ecology and Intellectual Property Rights (2021)”. On October 15, at the second edition of the Conference on the Integration of Informatization and Industrialization and Digital Transformation, the CICS-CERT and the Electronic Intellectual Property Center of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) released the report “Analysis of China’s High-Value Patents and Innovation Drivers of Artificial Intelligence”. These reports have offered a glimpse of the trends and power structure of AI technology development around the globe and in China. Baidu was recognized as an AI bellwether by outperforming in terms of number of patent applications, number of patents granted, and quality of patents, with the highest number of deep learning patent applications filed in the world.
Questel: Top-10 patent applicants
Questel: Filing trends of top 7 industrial players
Baidu leads China’s AI field in both quantity and quality
AI, as a frontier technology, is attracting more and more attention in China. The CICS-CERT and the Electronic Intellectual Property Center of the MIIT have been releasing annual AI patent analysis reports since 2018. Of the reports released by them, the 2021 report “Analysis of China’s High-Value Patents and Innovation Drivers of Artificial Intelligence” takes the quality of AI patents as an important component of analysis to make a quantitative summary of the current development trend of AI technology patents in China. The report pointed out that with the iterative development of technology and the gradual improvement of the industrial ecology, China’s AI patents continued to maintain an explosive growth trend. As of September 2021, China's total number of AI patent applications amounted to 909,401 with 253,811 patents granted. Baidu, Tencent, China’s State Grid, Huawei, and Alibaba were found to be the top companies filing the most AI patent applications and achieving the best quality for their AI patents. Baidu, specifically, topped the list for the fourth consecutive year, with 13,007 patent applications filed and 3,652 patents granted.
The report also pointed out that AI technology was developing in an all-around way in China, with 14 technologies categorized into 4 modules, i.e. general-purpose technology (deep learning, knowledge graphs, smart chips, and quantum computing), key-field technology (natural language processing, intelligent speech, computer vision, and intelligent recommendation), applied technology (smart city, intelligent map, smart healthcare, and intelligent driving), and foundational technology (big data and cloud computing). Massive progress has been made in the 4 modules. General-purpose technology has been subject to biggest innovation. Applied technology, of all applied technologies, has seen the highest number of patents filed and granted. Intelligent driving patents figure predominantly in the module of AI applied technology. Deep learning, as a branch of the general-purpose technology module, is growing the fastest. Baidu has the highest number of patent applications in various fields, including deep learning, intelligent driving, natural language processing, intelligent speech, knowledge graphs, intelligent recommendation, intelligent map, computer vision, smart healthcare, and smart city, showcasing a full array of innovative capabilities. The report was highly assertive about the aggressive investment policy on basic, cutting-edge, and disruptive AI research and patent portfolios of Baidu and some other domestic companies.
At present, China is in a critical stage of transition from high-speed development to high-quality development. In such a context, the report “Analysis of China’s High-Value Patents and Innovation Drivers of Artificial Intelligence” focuses on the theme of the times, i.e. high-quality development, formulating an innovative evaluation system to identify high-value AI patents. A list of Chinese companies rated and ranked was formed with the application of the evaluation system in the report. Baidu topped the list again with a score of 92.24, followed closely by Tencent and Huawei. In addition, the report also provided a statistical analysis of the results of the AI category of the China Patent Awards, recognizing Baidu as China’s best AI company in terms of number and rank of the awards it received. In June 2021, Baidu won a Gold Medal for an AI patent, China’s first Gold Medal for AI interactive technology.
With such a scientifically sound patent evaluation system in place, each patent was evaluated individually and the competitiveness and impact a patent holder obtained with all the patents it owned was also measured. Its competitiveness and impact was measured in terms of technology, market, industry, society, and policy. The evaluation results showed that a large number of high-value AI patents that Baidu had meticulously created over the years not only improved the company’s own technical strength and industry status, but also produced an exemplary role in promoting the high-quality development of China’s entire AI industry and boosted the prosperity of related industries. It even had far-reaching positive significance to enhance the wellbeing of the whole society. Baidu has impressed the general public as highly focused on research and development. With its constant devotion and innovation, Baidu has injected value and energy beyond the technology itself into AI technology.
An AI ecology is formed by Baidu with its areas of innovation spanning from basic technology to industry application
Over the years, China's AI companies, with Baidu as one of the representatives, have been centering on technology innovation and open cooperation to improve the quality of development and enable China's AI industry to become a world leader in various areas ranging from basic AI platforms to key general-purpose technologies and technologies in major fields such as algorithms, and from research and development to the practical applications and the realization of an open ecology. In addition, AI technology has taken root and seeped into people’s daily lives. A highly open and shared AI ecosystem connects households and companies, providing great convenience and boosting productivity.
AI general-purpose technologies
Deep learning is an indispensable and fundamental core technology to achieve industrial intelligent transformation, as well as a key technology that enterprises in the AI sector have to grasp. For years, Baidu has been making focused and continuous efforts to develop deep learning technologies, achieving impressive advantages at home and internationally. In January 2019, the WIPO released the report “WIPO Technology Trends 2019 – Artificial Intelligence”, which found Baidu to be the second largest deep learning patent applicant in the world. And a recent research shows that Baidu has already leaped from second place to first place. Questel has recently released the report “Deep Learning: 2021 patent landscape”, reviewing the global development trends of deep leaning patents in the past decade through a statistical analysis and shedding light on the R&D directions and technological advantages of main patent holders in this field. The report shows that 43 out of the world’s top 50 deep learning patent applicants are from China, with Baidu being the leader with 2,522 applications filed, ahead of its global rivals such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Samsung.
Backed by its years of innovation, application, and a strong AI patent portfolio, Baidu has created PaddlePaddle, a deep learning platform characteristic of the technological advances achieved under China's 13th Five-Year Plan. PaddlePaddle has developed a fully proprietary underlying framework, maturing as a platform where many of Baidu's world-leading core AI technologies are pooled. It has also leveled the playing field of AI use for companies and developers in the industry, building an open source ecology of AI in China. PaddlePaddle is being used by 3.7 million developers and 140,000 enterprises, with 425,000 models generated on it. An AI ecosystem incorporating a wide range of industries is forming supported by the platform, including industry, agriculture, healthcare, urban planning and management, transportation, and finance. According to the report on the market shares of the deep learning framework platforms for the first half of 2021 issued by the International Data Corporation (IDC), Baidu's PaddlePaddle has leaped to first place among China's deep learning platforms, and is continuing to grow.
Quantum computing is a fundamental AI general-purpose technology. As a leading AI company, Baidu deems its expansion into quantum computing as a natural fit. According to the comprehensive index measurement in the report "Analysis of China’s High-Value Patents and Innovation Drivers of Artificial Intelligence", Baidu ranked first among China's innovators in terms of quality of quantum computing patents. This also corroborates the company's leading position in fundamental AI technologies. So far, Baidu has built a quantum platform featuring the three projects Quanlse, Paddle Quantum, and Quantum Leaf, with the aim to provide a comprehensive quantum infrastructure-as-a-service (QaaS) to materialize the vision of "quantum for all". As predicted by a significant number of scholars, the next big step in AI may be lurking in the chain reaction of quantum computing technology development, for which Baidu has fully prepared itself.
Key AI technologies
Recently, metaverse has aroused heated debate in the global technology scene. AI technologies, such as intelligent speech, natural language processing, computer vision (including augmented reality and virtual reality) and knowledge graph, will become crucial infrastructure for the metaverse and suggest infinite possibilities for the VR industry. The report "Analysis of China’s High-Value Patents and Innovation Drivers of Artificial Intelligence" provided a quantitative analysis of patent applications, patents granted, and the quality of patents in various fields such as natural speech processing, intelligent speech, knowledge graph, computer vision, and intelligent recommendation. According to the report, Baidu and Tencent have been performing brilliantly. Baidu ranks first in China both in terms of quantity and quality of patenting in these 5 fields and in terms of number of the patents grants in 3 fields (natural speech processing, intelligent speech, and intelligent recommendation), indicating the company’s overall leading edge. Tencent follows closely behind.
Baidu’s leading portfolio of AI patents will provide strong support for the construction of important infrastructure in the metaverse. At the Summit Online of the 2021 World Conference on VR Industry, Baidu expressed its aspiration to become an "infrastructure maniac" of the metaverse, using its powerful AI technologies to build the infrastructure of the metaverse. The technology "a sentence generates an image" unveiled at the Baidu World 2021 has managed to combine different technologies such as augmented reality, knowledge graph, speech recognition, natural language processing, and image recognition, as well as massive data on the knowledge about character building, achieving cross-modal technology integration. This intelligent solution of 3D virtual image generation has reduced the complex, inefficient, and costly work as simple as talking. All users need to do is to vocalize a simple description before a personalized avatar is generated.
Baidu has been excelling at natural language processing, intelligent speech, knowledge graph, and intelligent search, with the highest number of patent applications filed in these areas in recent years, and its patents have met premier standards of quality. Baidu's invention patent for the "AI-based human-computer interaction method and system" won the Gold Award of the China Patent Awards, which integrates the use of knowledge graph and deep learning technologies to achieve intelligent human-computer cross-modal interaction across languages, voices, and images based on deep semantic understanding, and has been widely applied in products including Baidu Search, Baidu Map, and Xiaodu Smart Speaker. It has also been applied through the Baidu AI cloud service to various industries and sectors, such as telecommunications, energy, finance, administrative governance, healthcare, and education, empowering them to achieve intelligent upgrading. On November 3, 2021, at China’s 2020 National Science and Technology Awards Conference held in Beijing, Baidu's "Key Technology and Application of Knowledge-Augmented Cross-Modal Semantic Understanding" won the Second Class Award of the State Technological Invention Award. It is a breakthrough in NLP technology.
As the world's largest Chinese-language search engine, Baidu ranks first in intelligent recommendation with 1,611 patent applications filed and 709 patents granted. Baidu has grown from the third largest computer vision patent applicant in 2020 to the largest one in 2021. At the 6th Beijing Invention Patent Award in 2021, Baidu's computer vision patent won the First Class Award, which was unprecedented.
Applied AI technologies
Autonomous driving is currently one of the largest application scenarios of AI technology around the globe, and one of the AI technological areas that Baidu focuses on. In the field of autonomous driving, Baidu has not only developed substantial technological advantages, but also replied on its own intellectual property rights to provide an open, complete, and safe autonomous driving platform-Baidu Apollo to partners in the automotive industry and the field of autonomous driving.
The report “Artificial Intelligence Open Source Ecology and Intellectual Property Rights (2021)” released by the Intellectual Property Center of the CAICT showed that as of August 2021, in China, the autonomous driving patent applications filed numbered around 304,300 and the autonomous driving patents granted numbered around 78,300. Baidu topped the list once again, surpassing foreign automotive giants such as Toyota, Ford, Bosch, Honda, and General Motors. The report also pointed out that a number of Chinese open source projects, such as Baidu Apollo, have grown into world-leading ones by establishing a complete open source IPR compliance systems. A similar conclusion was subsequently drawn in the report “Analysis of China’s High-Value Patents and Innovation Drivers of Artificial Intelligence” released by the CICS-CERT and the Electronic Intellectual Property Center of the MIIT, with Baidu recognized as China’s largest and best intelligent driving patent applicant.
The project Baidu Apollo was inaugurated in April 2017. After more than four years of development, its business scope has expanded from autonomous driving to the whole intelligent transportation system, forming three major open platforms for autonomous driving, intelligent transportation, and intelligent vehicle connection. At present, the road test mileage of Apollo L4 autonomous driving has exceeded 16 million kilometers, with 210 ecological partners, including almost all the world's mainstream car manufacturers, first-class parts suppliers, chip companies, sensor companies, traffic integrators, and travel companies. It has spanned the whole industry chain from hardware to software and brought together 65,000 developers worldwide, with open source code of 700,000 lines generated, forming a prosperous intelligent driving industry ecology.
China’s New Infrastructure Plan has also presented new opportunities for the development of smart healthcare and smart city. Healthcare is an important application area concerning the general public’s wellbeing. With advanced information technologies such as AI technology applied, the medical industry has been becoming more and more intelligent. And thanks to its head start on its competitors, Baidu has been proactively designing the portfolio of its patents for smart healthcare. In December 2020, the Intellectual Property Development & Research Center of the China National Intellectual Property Administration released a report on the development state of the intellectual property rights of AI as a New Infrastructure component, where Baidu ranked first in terms of number of the applications of smart healthcare patents filed. The report “Analysis of China’s High-Value Patents and Innovation Drivers of Artificial Intelligence” also showed that Baidu topped the list of the patents for smart healthcare and smart city. With its leading AI technologies and patent portfolio, Baidu has empowered the intelligent development of industries, substantially improving urban liveability for city-dwellers.
Innovation determines the future. If AI can be regarded as exciting uncharted seas and stars beckoning to humans, technological innovation is simply the way humans are paving to reach them, and patents are the accelerators to achieve it. Setting “AI for better” and patented technology as the goal and tool respectively, Chinese companies, represented by Baidu, not only hope to empower their own AI technology research and development, but also aim to advance the advent of a new era of AI in China. In due course, the ultimate ideal of using technology to change the world will shine equally over every industry, every company, and even every ordinary person including you and me.