IP Opportunities in Quantum Computing

IP Opportunities in Quantum Computing

Quantum computing has long been touted as having the potential to be one of the most disruptive technologies of the 21st century. By utilising the laws of quantum physics, quantum computers are envisaged to enable a host of applications requiring significant computing power far beyond the reach of even the world’s most advanced supercomputers. For example, the development of practical quantum computers should enable better drug design, more efficient machine learning algorithms, enhanced modelling of weather, precise simulation of complex chemical, biological and physical systems amongst many other things. Not only that, but quantum computers also use much less energy than their classical counterparts, which is a welcome benefit given the goals set at the recent COP summit.

The capability of quantum computers to deliver this vast computing power essentially stems from a cornerstone of quantum physics – superposition. Whereas a non-quantum or classical computer processes bits which can only have binary values (“0” or “1”), a quantum computer processes qubits (or qutrits). Differently to standard bits, qubits can have the values of “0” and “1” as well as any superposition of “0” and “1” simultaneously. What this means is that quantum computers have an exponentially large computational (or Hilbert) space due to the number of possible states in an “n” qubit system being equal to 2^n at any moment in time. For this reason, quantum computers are able to deal with extremely difficult computational problems. Qubits also exhibit entanglement and this property can also be utilised in quantum computers to enhance their operation as well as providing the functionality for emerging applications such as the quantum internet.

Due to the range of possibilities provided by quantum computing, many large companies such as IBM, Google, Microsoft and Intel have been working hard to come up with solutions in this space. There are also a large host of start-up companies worldwide looking at building practical quantum computers and the underlying quantum algorithms and software which will be run on them.

Whilst the benefits of quantum computers are extremely exciting, it is important to keep in mind that there is still a long way to go before practical quantum computers capable of solving real-world problems efficiently become a reality. We are currently in the so-called Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum (NISQ) era of quantum computing, with Google claiming in late 2019 to have demonstrated “quantum supremacy” using such a NISQ era machine. This “quantum supremacy” has thus proved (as expected) that a quantum computer can indeed be used to solve a problem not capable of being solved by a classical computer.

This is a significant milestone. However, many commentators believe that we are still some time away from seeing a “quantum advantage”, where a quantum computer is actually used to efficiently solve a real-world problem that is unable to be effectively solved on a classical computer. This is because there are many challenges remaining that must be overcome before scalable quantum computers can become reality. For example, there are still problems such as decoherence of qubits due to their noisy environments, qubit interconnectivity, how to run quantum algorithms efficiently on a quantum computer, quantum error rates and quantum gate fidelity, to name but a few.

Different research groups around the world are taking different approaches to these challenges. For example, quantum computers based on many different underlying qubit architectures have been proposed in recent years, with superconducting qubits, trapped ion qubits, topological qubits, silicon qubits and photonic qubits currently being the leading candidates. There have also been a large number of quantum algorithms proposed as well as many different approaches to quantum error correction.

Whilst these challenges may be frustrating from a technical perspective, finding ways to overcome these challenges should also be seen as an opportunity for businesses looking to cement their place in this space. This is because businesses that can solve the extant problems with current quantum computing architectures may well be able to obtain strong intellectual property protection for the solutions they develop. These solutions could range from new qubit architectures to new methodologies or software for controlling quantum computers or new ways of using quantum computers in sync with their classical counterparts.

Businesses operating in the field of quantum computers, and in quantum technology generally, should thus be aware that there is significant potential in the coming years for them to mark their territory by obtaining IP protection for their innovations. Protecting these innovations should in turn help these businesses define their own unique space in this fast growing and competitive field.

At Secerna, our trusted team of attorneys have significant experience working with quantum technologies and therefore can provide tailored guidance for businesses looking to secure their IP position in this field. Please do not hesitate to contact us at docketing@secerna.co.uk should you have any queries regarding obtaining IP protection for your quantum technology.

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