Quantum Technology, Intellectual Property and Fair Competition

This Project examines the need for quantum-specific innovation policy mechanisms. In laypersons terms: are the intellectual property (IP), fair competition and antitrust systems functioning well in the US, EU, and Asia, or do we need incremental reforms and clarifications for quantum and hybrids, classical data and quantum information, as they are entering the global markets? In case we need changes to the system, would these apply to the entire exotic family of QT, or just to computing, sensing, or networking (e.g., the future quantum internet) using a differentiated approach? And what are the effects and tradeoffs of the US government connecting IP policies to national security and economic safety strategies, to prevent IP theft while advancing American technological leadership – are these measures effective or counterproductive? What is the nature of the pendulum swing between freedom to operate & innovate, and fair access & risk control? Should safeguarding, engaging, and advancing (SEA) QT, society, and humankind be better balanced? Who are key actors in this ongoing balancing act?

Does quantum driven innovation in industries such as Healthcare, Energy, Defense, Finance, Cleantech, Logistics, and Entertainment require bespoke IP regimes working in concert with antitrust laws? How can one ensure equitable social outcomes while incentivizing technology transfer and sustainable innovation in quantum software algorithms and hardware structures, such as truly parallel, general-purpose quantum exascale supercomputing paradigms?

IP portfolio strategies in quantum computing potentially lead to IP protection in perpetuity. Analytically, one might conclude that the ensuing IP overprotection in the field of quantum computing may lead to barriers for quantum-startups, and to unwanted concentrations of market power for first movers, being a handful of universities and large corporations.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, recent empirical studies found that there appear to be no such overprotection problems in the actual quantum computing field, as more and more quantum patent information is already entering the public domain, moving us towards an expanding quantum computing information commons. And who wouldn’t want a rich public domain, fostering open innovation?

But that’s not the whole story, as trade secrets as part of IP portfolio strategies utilizing the whole rainbow of IP rights, complicate things – as these colors, these rights overlap and interrelate. Developments taking place in secrecy, either by trade secrets or state secrets, remains an unexplored dimension of our empirical approach, as information about these innovations is not represented by our dataset, and thus cannot be observed, replicated or generalized. What’s more, the absence of overprotection might be a function of the early stage of the quantum computing field.

IP law cannot incentivize creation, prevent market failure, free riding, IP theft, and fix winner-takes-all effects all at the same time. Here, antitrust law should work together with IP in concert. And what about the role of national and international IP in the bigger geopolitical picture? Governments, research institutions, and the markets should prepare new regulatory and IP strategies that encourage fair competition and incentivize sustainable innovation. Such strategies come with trade-offs and have to strike the right balance between competing priorities: quantum IP rights should incentivize innovation, facilitate rapid technology transfer, information sharing, national security and economic safety policy objectives, and a thriving global quantum ecosystem. While safeguarding fundamental rights and freedoms such as data privacy, authentication, identification, freedom of speech and thought, and reinforcing democratic values.

This Stanford Center for Responsible Quantum Technology research Project intends to deliver theoretical and empirical cross-disciplinary academic scholarship on understanding the governance, regulatory, political, and intellectual property policy challenges in light of Quantum Technology and AI, including technological synergies.