Quantum computing is currently a hotbed of technological development.
Beyond the excitement quantum computing generates from a technical perspective, it promises substantial financial reward for those savvy enough to innovate quickly and well, and to bring their innovations to market promptly. As with any new area of potentially valuable technical innovation, a rush to obtain patent protection necessarily follows. That is plainly happening now with quantum computing.
One can see the number of patent applications being filed and where those applications are filed. But what do those numbers mean? The simple answer is, it is too soon to tell. First, it takes time to obtain a patent – usually at least 2-3 years from filing. Even then, is a patent worth anything? Some are. Some aren’t. When a patent application is filed, it is important that the inventor understand where the technology for her invention will be, and what the value of her invention will be – not at the time of filing, but 3-10 years later. Maybe the inventor will guess incorrectly; maybe the technology will change in an unexpected way before the patent issues; and maybe competitors will develop “better mousetraps” – or, from a patent perspective, “different mousetraps” from what is claimed in the patent.
Notwithstanding this uncertainty about the significance of the number of patent filings in this vacuum, it is interesting to get a flavor of some of the quantum-related patents the United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted so far.
We have selected a few of those patents to provide that flavor. They are not intended to be representative of all issued patents, nor have they been selected because of their value, which remains unclear.
One of the important challenges of quantum computing is to maintain the quality of information in qubits as long as possible, thereby increasing the performance of quantum computers. There are many patents in this area. For example:
US Patent 11,210,602, entitled Multi-Qubit Control, issued on December 28, 2021. This patent addresses the problem of improving performance of a quantum processor having multiple qubits. Quantum information deteriorates quickly for a number of reasons, including noise. The patent describes a control method to stabilize information in qubits by reducing noise so complex algorithms run more effectively. For example, the method models noise, determines a filter for that noise, and applies that filter.
US Patent 10,748,078, entitled Fast Quantum Gates With First-Order Transition Via Frequency-Modulated Tunable Coupling Element, issued on August 18, 2020. This patent addresses the problem that qubits can store information only for a limited time, some of which is unavailable for use because of the time required to settle the state of the qubits. As a result of this time limitation, the number of qubits that can be used together is limited. The patent describes coupling qubits with a modulator that operates at different frequencies to shorten the qubit preparation time, which results in achieving higher gate rates and enabling scale using a greater number of qubits together.
As with conventional computers, there are advantages of using the cloud to enhance the power and cost of processing. For example:
US Patent 10,826,845, entitled Method And Systems For Quantum Computing, issued on November 3, 2020. This patent addresses the problem that quantum computing resources are not necessary for solving all aspects of a problem but, when necessary, the cost of quantum information processing is extremely high, putting those resources out of reach for many. The proposed solution is to provide quantum resources on a shared basis over a cloud computing platform. Thus, a user can perform a computational task using both a conventional computer and, where necessary, a quantum computer.
And, of course, the key benefit of quantum computing is enabling applications that cannot be run on conventional computers. Examples include:
US Patent 10,783,446, entitled Quantum Solver For Financial Calculations, issued on September 22, 2020. This patent addresses the problem of certain financial problems being too complicated to be solved by conventional computers. They can, however, be solved using quantum computers. The patent describes a method of solving such problems by constructing a quantum circuit with a set of candidate solutions for a problem, and identifying a set of solutions of the problem from those candidates using a quantum computer.
US Patent 9,881,256, entitled Systems And Methods For Problem Solving, Useful For Example In Quantum Computing, issued on January 30, 2018. This patent addresses a method of solving computation problems with the aid of quantum computers. For example, the patent describes generating a number of potential solutions to a problem using a quantum computer, evaluating those solutions using a conventional computer, and modifying the problem and creating another iteration of potential solutions using a quantum computer.
These are but a few of the quantum related patents that have issued so far in the United States. With an increase in patent application filings, the number of issued quantum computing patents is already exploding, and is sure to continue to explode in the future.