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Patents of Quantum Computing Companies

Matthias PötzlMatthias Pötzl

This is a short report about the market environment, the dominant companies, and the current patenting activity in the quantum computing industry. The quantum computer market is projected to reach $5 Billion through 2020. Although recent technology advances of some companies are quite promising, the industry is still trying to take off the ground.

The advantages of quantum computing are obvious. It differs from binary digital electronic computers that require the data to be encoded into binary digits (bits), each of which is always in one of two definite states. Quantum computation uses quantum bits, which can be in an infinite number of superpositions of states and can increase computation power significantly. As a matter of fact, both practical and theoretical research is funded by national governments and military agencies to develop quantum computers for national security & defense, economic, environmental and health purposes.
For the purpose of this analysis, we used a technology description of Wikipedia and our patent analytics tool, octimine (https://www.octimine.com).
With octimine, we identified the most relevant patents in that area and looked at the filing dates. The patenting activity of quantum computing took place in three cycles so far.

One cycle starting in 1999 with a peak of patent filings in the year 2003, a shorter cycle from 2004-2009 and the the recent developments which started in the year 2013. That is a typical pattern for technologies that either developed over time or didn’t have any breakthrough so far, and as a result the patenting activity is highly correlated to the situation of the world economy. As already mentioned above, quantum computing seems to be in that phase.

Looking at the top 5 companies that shaped the quantum computing history, there is one dominating company called D-Wave System Inc from Canada. D-Wave was founded 1999 by Haig Farris, Geordie Rose, Bob Wiens und Alexandre Zagoskin. The next two companies that are very active in this market are IBM and Hewlett Packard.
IBM has a quantum computing research unit in Yorktown Heights, USA. In April 2015, they published the news that they developed a new kind of circuit that can detect both bit-flip and phase-flip errors together. This development is important for solving the problem of detecting and correcting the two types of quantum errors that can exist in quantum computing systems. Hewlett Packard's Quantum Computing unit is based in Bristol, United Kingdom and is part of the Information and Quantum Systems Laboratory. The laboratory focuses on computation, cryptography, and communications. Not in the Top 5 companies but also still very active in this field is Microsoft Inc. The company established their QuArC group in 2011 and work closely together with universities all over the world. A very recent patent WO2016089711 of the company Microsoft on “Quantum deep learning” shows tremendous potential of the new computing method:

“Boltzmann machines are trained using an objective function that is evaluated by sampling quantum states that approximate a Gibbs state. Classical processing is used to produce the objective function, and the approximate Gibbs state is based on weights and biases that are refined using the sample results. In some examples, amplitude estimation is used. A combined classical/quantum computer produces suitable weights and biases for classification of shapes and other applications. A method of training a Boltzmann machine, comprising: with a classical computer, receiving a specification of a Boltzmann machine, an objective function, and associated training data; in a quantum computer, determining at least one gradient of the objective function; and based on the at least one gradient of the objective function, specifying at least one visible bias, at least one hidden bias or at least one weight of the Boltzmann machine so as to produce a trained Boltzmann machine.”

To analyze where the companies acting in that field, see their main markets, a short glimpse on the patent authorities can have some valueable insights. The patent offices that deal the most with quantum computing patents are the US patent office (USPTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO;WO) the European Patent Office (EPO) and the Japanese Patent Office. It is not surprising that these are the main markets where companies operating in quantum computing area want to sell their products in the future.

Some of the most recent analog computing patent publications of companies and universities are also added to this report and listed in the table below.

Method and system for qantum circuit synthesis

MICROSOFT WO2016164325A1

Techniques of oscillator control for quantum information processing and related systems and methods

UNIV YALE WO2016138378A1

Single photon source based on a quantum dot molecule in an optical cavity


Flux control of qubit under resonant excitation


Techniques for coupling planar qubits to non-planar qubits to nn-planar resonators and related systems and methods

UNIV YALE WO2016138395A1

Extraction of random numbers from physical systems


Quantum-assisted training of neural networks

LOCKHEED US2015317558A1

Methods for general stabilizer-based quantum computing simulation


Systems and methods employing new evolution schedules in an analog computer with applications to determining isomorphic graphs and post-processing solutions

DWAVE SYS US2015363708A1

Quantum circuit synthesis using deterministic walks


Systems and methods for removing unwanted interactions in quantum devices

DWAVE SYS US2015262073A1

It is interesting to see that Universities like the University of Michigan and the Yale University more and more get involved in the patenting process of the quantum computing process and are head-to-head with established companies in that field. Not surprising is that the company D-Wave Systems is still very active in the market.
As a final remark, the quantum computing industry shows three technology cycles and ii at the moment again on the rise. Companies like D-Wave, IBM, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard are active as well as the University of Michigan and the Yale University in recent years.

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