Quantum Leap: Decoding Quantum Computing Innovation – Patenting Trends, Innovation & Policy Implications

This project, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, aims to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the patent landscape in the emerging field of quantum computing, including quantum simulation. Anticipating the potential implications of quantum technologies in real-world products, commentators have started proposing governance and regulatory strategies, raising concerns, and suggesting policy recommendations focused on quantum technologies. These proposals range from incentives (e.g. push incentives and IPRs) to calls for standardization (e.g. ISO/IEC/IEEE) and regulation (e.g. technology governance). Such academic contributions and proposals can be better judged by examining them in conjunction with empirical data to facilitate evidence-based policy decisions [Aboy 2021 IIC]. Patents are a valuable indicator of the pace and dynamics of innovation at the invention stage. Consequently, empirical studies examining the actual patenting activity can provide valuable evidence to help assess policy proposals related to IPRs, innovation, and regulation in light of patent office data.
Our overarching research questions include:

  1. Historical Development & Current Trends of Quantum Computing Patents: How has the landscape of patents related to quantum computing evolved since its inception? What key technological milestones can be traced through patent filings and citation analysis?
  2. Geographical Distribution of Quantum Computing Patents: Which countries and organizations are leading in quantum computing patents? How do geopolitical factors influence the development and patenting of quantum computing technologies?
  3. Scope of Protection: What is the nature of the quantum computing claims? What are the prevailing claim drafting strategies? What is being protected? Is it narrow or broad? Semiconductor level, hardware, or software layer?
  4. Sufficiency of Disclosure & Patent Quality: To what extent are quantum patents sufficiently disclosed? How does this level of disclosure compare to the standards required in engineering peer-reviewed journals? How does it compare to the legal standards? What implications do these different disclosure standards have on the accessibility and future reproducibility of quantum computing inventions?
  5. Corporate vs. Academic Patenting Trends: How do patenting strategies and trends differ between corporate entities and academic institutions in the field of quantum computing?
  6. Key Quantum Computing Innovation Areas: What specific areas within quantum computing are seeing the most patent activity?
  7. Impact of Quantum Computing Patents on Industry Standards: How are patents influencing the development of industry standards in quantum computing? Are there any IP parallels with the developments in the field of mobile communications (e.g., TDMA, CDMA, 1G-5G tech)?
  8. Cross-Industry Application of Quantum Computing Patents: In what ways are quantum computing patents being applied across different industries (e.g., pharma, healthcare, defence, finance)?
  9. Open Source vs. Proprietary Technologies in Quantum Computing: How is the balance between open-source initiatives and proprietary patents impacting the advancement of quantum computing?
  10. Government Policies and Quantum Computing Innovation: How do different national policies regarding research funding, intellectual property, and technology transfer impact the development of quantum computing? What is the role of patent secrecy orders and export control?

In summary, this project explores the historical evolution and current trends of quantum computing patents, tracing key technological milestones through patent filings and citation analysis. The study also examines the geographical distribution of these patents, highlighting the leading countries and organizations, as well as the impact of geopolitical factors on the development and patenting of quantum technologies. A critical aspect of this research is the analysis of the scope of protection in quantum computing patents, including the nature of the patent claims and prevalent claim drafting strategies. What is being protected? What is the nature of the quantum computing claims? The quantum computing patents identified will be used to create a curated patent database to help study foundational patent law questions, including subject matter eligibility, novelty, non-obviousness, written description, and secrecy orders. For instance, it will be used to assess the sufficiency of disclosure and patent quality of quantum computing patents, comparing these against standards in engineering journals, to understand their impact on the accessibility and reproducibility of follow-on quantum computing innovations.

The project further contrasts patenting trends between corporate entities and academic institutions, identifying specific areas within quantum computing with significant or noteworthy patent activity. One goal is to evaluate the influence of patents on the development of industry standards in quantum computing, as well as to explore their applications across industries, such as in the pharmaceuticals, healthcare, defence, and finance sectors.

Additionally, the study investigates the dynamic between open-source initiatives and proprietary patents, assessing their collective impact on the advancement of quantum computing. It also considers the role of government policies in different nations concerning research funding, IP, and technology transfer in the development of quantum computing.

The project findings are intended to inform policy and future predictions for the field based on current patent trends, providing insights into the potential trajectories of quantum computing. For instance, based on current patent trends, what predictions can be made about the future directions of quantum computing technology? How can these findings inform the governance frameworks and principles for responsible quantum innovation? This comprehensive IP analysis aims to shed light on the emerging patent landscape of quantum computing, offering insights for multiple stakeholders (e.g., academics, innovators, investors, and policymakers) in this rapidly evolving field.