Alibaba’s Damo Academy offers free access to its AI patents

  • The in-house research initiative of Alibaba will provide free public access to 100 patents covering image processing, video processing and more
  • The licences will be included in China’s national patent scheme, which offers patents for use by smaller businesses at relatively low fee

Damo Academy, the in-house research initiative of Alibaba Group, is offering open access to its proprietary technology, in the Chinese tech giant’s latest move to share the fruit of its development in the field.

For the first time, the academy will provide free public access to 100 patents spanning multiple AI application scenarios, including image processing, video technology and 3D visualisation, Damo said on its WeChat account on Friday.

The initiative was intended to give small and medium-sized enterprises access to AI technology at a significantly lower cost amid rapid acceleration in technological development, Damo said.

The licences will also be included in a national patent list published by the Intellectual Property Exchange Centre under the government of eastern Zhejiang province,where Alibaba’s headquarters is based.

The national patent scheme enlists dozens of universities and research institutions to provide access to more than 6,800 patents for smaller businesses paying an annual fee of 50,000 yuan or less, to boost technological innovation in the country, according to Chinese media reports.

The move comes as China ramps up efforts to drive the development of AI, with Big Tech companies pouring massive resources into developing their own AI products amid escalating US export and investment restrictions on advanced technology.

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday unveiled a long-anticipated executive order, putting new restrictions on investments that American firms can make in China in semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum information technologies, and AI systems.

China leads the world in AI patent applications, with the country filing some 648,500 AI patent applications between 2018 and 2022, accounting for 62 per cent of the world’s total, according to research and development analytics firm PatSnap.

The US and South Korea followed in second and third place, with about 191,000 and 52,800 patent applications filed, respectively.

Damo said three of the 100 free patents focused on precision treatment of cancer, which could help hospitals offer intelligent solutions and accelerate the transformation of technology used to cure the disease.

Other patents include technology related to traffic signal perception used in intelligent traffic management, as well as image identification technology applicable to e-commerce platforms looking to weed out products that infringe on copyrights.

The academy said it planned to free up more patents in the future to establish a “more open AI technology ecosystem”.

Hangzhou-based Alibaba, owner of the South China Morning Post, established Damo in 2017 to focus on fundamental science and disruptive innovations. The institution has 16 laboratories covering areas ranging from AI and autonomous driving to quantum computing and semiconductor research and development.

Alibaba’s cloud unit in April revealed its own alternative to ChatGPT Tongyi Qianwen which was based on Damo’s large language models (LLMs), making it one of the earliest Chinese companies to jump on the AI chatbot bandwagon.

Last week, Alibaba’s cloud computing unit open sourced two of its LLM models that were based on Tongyi Qianwen, in a move that analysts said was aimed at expanding the company’s global influence in the field of AI.


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