Research Security, Technology Theft, and Intellectual Property Rights: A Responsible Quantum Technology Perspective


Publish Date:
October 11, 2023
Publication Title:
Center for a New American Security
CNAS Quantum Roundtable
Place of Publication:
Washington DC
  • Mauritz Kop, Research Security, Technology Theft, and Intellectual Property Rights: A Responsible Quantum Technology Perspective, Conference Paper, Center for a New American Security, October 11 2023, Washington DC
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Pressing intellectual property (IP), research security and technology theft questions can be addressed through the lens of the Quantum-ELSPI metaparadigm, and the Responsible Quantum Technology (RQT) framework. Operationalizing these concepts offers concrete solutions for challenges pertaining to strategic quantum IP & technological competitiveness, we hope to be helpful to the Center for a New American Security’s (CNAS) Project on US QT Strategy and US-China Economic Relations.

Quantum ELSPI

As with any emerging technology such as generative & interactive AI, nuclear, and synthetic biology, there are interconnected ethical, legal, socio-economic, and policy implications that must be proactively considered. For example, which use cases of quantum technology are ethically unacceptable, and which uses should be incentivized by governments and the markets? As such, Quantum-ELSPI can inspire an account and practice of Responsible Quantum Technology. Developing and deploying quantum computing, sensing and networking responsibly includes prioritizing national and economic safety & security through technological competitiveness, while pursuing global cooperation on planetary level challenges. We want to answer today’s hyper-specialized quantum IP questions from this broader perspective.

What is Responsible Quantum Technology?

A Stanford led interdisciplinary team of 10 quantum-scholars found that the potential transformative power and societal impact of second generation quantum technologies directly harnessing counter-intuitive quantum-mechanical effects, commands us to proceed responsibly. And so we conceptualized RQT. In short, our methodological framework for Responsible QT integrates considerations about ethical, legal, social, and policy implications (ELSPI-Perspectives) into quantum R&D, deployment and adoption, while responding to the familiar Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) dimensions of anticipation, inclusion, reflection and responsiveness (AIRR).

10 Principles for Responsible Quantum Innovation

To operationalize RQT and cultivate responsible QT practices, our research group also developed 10 Principles for Responsible Quantum Innovation. One principle is completely devoted to IP and its interfaces with fair competition, national security and economic stability, trade & export controls, rare earth supply chains, dual use, and geopolitics. The 10 Principles are categorized into three functional categories: safeguarding, engaging, and advancing QT (SEA). Crucially, we found that safeguarding QT, society and humankind can often be best achieved by advancing QT responsibly. The SEA framework can inform regulatory interventions for QT in both precautionary and permissionless innovation systems, and anything in between.

A rainbow of IP rights

The countless software and hardware components of the extravagant suite of Quantum Technologies can be protected by a rainbow of IP rights, with each right, each color of that rainbow protecting something different. One can use an IP-portfolio strategy to maximize the quality and value of the IP portfolio.

We are currently seeing a historic pendulum swing between IP overprotection and underprotection, in combination with cycles of open and closed, or secret development of transformative technologies. These trends affect exponential, 4IR innovation. We published mixed theoretical-empirical research on patents, fair competition, and concentrated market power in early stage quantum technologies. Lacking the necessary data, trade secrets and state secrets remain an unexplored dimension of those studies.

Regulation, national and economic safety & security, trade-offs

Regulating quantum technology is a balancing act between underregulation and overregulation. While searching for effective QT innovation mechanisms, we need to balance mitigating QT risks with maximizing benefits. In parallel, we want to minimize the risk of unintended counterproductive results of policy interventions (such as export controls giving the wrong incentives to the export controlled region and obstructing fragile supply chains, or restrictive STEM immigration policies hindering building a strong local quantum workforce) by encouraging data driven, evidence based policies that abide to good governance standards.

Governments, research institutions, and the markets should prepare regulatory and intellectual property strategies that promote healthy competition and incentivize sustainable innovation, informed by evidence-based policy and Quantum-ELSPI considerations, including geopolitics, bolstering international collaboration, and national and economic safety & security. These are at times competing priorities and come with trade-offs.

Embedded democratic values & universal human rights

To encourage fair competition and correct market skewness & winner takes all effects, antitrust law should work together with IP and IP alternatives such as taxes, subsidies, direct funding, competitions, prizes and fines. Common democratic norms, principles and values should be actively embedded into the architecture and infrastructure of the entire suite of QT via inclusive interoperability standards & protocols, life cycle audits, certification and RQT benchmarking & validation schemes. These combined strategies should foster the creation of a thriving global responsible quantum ecosystem, while safeguarding universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, reinforcing shared democratic values, and respecting the rule of law.

Today’s IP & Technology Theft Questions at the CNAS Quantum Roundtable

With these trends in mind, let us focus on 9 questions about Research Security, Technology Theft, and Intellectual Property Rights, while taking ELSPI & RQT considerations, and SEA dynamics into account:

1. What areas of quantum research are suitable for international collaboration, including with strategic competitors such as China, and what areas should be subject to restrictions?

2. Is NSPM-33 sufficient to advance U.S. national and economic security interests? Are there implementation bottlenecks? If so, how can these be mitigated?

3. How might research security concerns influence the United States’ access to qualified quantum talent?

4. How can U.S. policymakers assess risk of quantum technology theft & diversion?

5. How can the risks of scientific or commercial collaboration in quantum with a certain entity or individual be rigorously evaluated over time?

6. What do we know and what do we not know about China’s efforts to gain access to U.S. quantum technology and know-how?

7. What are the intellectual property concerns associated with quantum technology at this stage of development? What is the quantum industry doing to address these concerns?

8. What intellectual property challenges may arise as the quantum industry moves closer to technology commercialization?

9. What might an effective intellectual property strategy for quantum technology include?