Quantum computing, once the stuff of science fiction, is here. While still under heavy development, companies such as Rolls Royce and Goldman Sachs are predicting that the world will begin to see the release of quantum applications of significant value within the next decade. Others believe it may come even sooner, with McKinsey & Company predicting that sectors such as the pharmaceutical industry could see results as early as 2030, and Capgemini reporting that 43% of organizations developing quantum tech expect it to be available for at least one major commercial application in 3-5 years.
It’s clear that regardless of the timeline particulars, quantum computing stands to create tremendous value and a highly disruptive competitive advantage. Building internal quantum knowledge and innovations now may be key to future success, and will require building a solid intellectual property (IP) portfolio by patenting those innovations.
Quantum-related filings are already rising rapidly, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) granting around 2,000 such patents per year. According to McKinsey, China holds the bulk of patents (54%) in all major types of quantum technologies, and companies such as IBM, Classiq, and Quantinuum are building sizable portfolios centered on the core of the quantum computing stack.
Given the relative novelty of the technology, building a quantum IP portfolio should also involve filing provisional patents, holding a place on emerging innovations under the patent system’s “first-to-file” rules. While some businesses such as government contractors may have good reason to retain their knowledge as trade, both large and small businesses should move to protect the fruits of their early investment and innovation. Early filers may also see a first-mover advantage, being able to file more broadly than they would be able to once the field narrows as an expanding number of patents are granted.
While quantum computing may still strike some business executives as too far in the future to be worth investing limited resources into, especially in an increasingly uncertain business environment, some of the fastest movers in the field are already building robust portfolios and preparing to enforce their IP rights, setting the stage for future licensing demands and potential lawsuits. To successfully reap the benefits of tomorrow’s technology, business leaders need to be prepared to advocate for building a strong quantum IP base today.