If you are interested in quantum computing, you might be interested in learning about QC patents filed in the USA. Here are some relevant links.
- home page of USPTO (US Patent & Trademark Office)
- the USPTO has its own patent search page here
- Google has a patent search page too, here
- Click here to search the USPTO database for all GRANTED patents with the term “quantum computer” in either the abstract or claims. I got 114 hits today, on Oct 7, 2010
- Click here to search the USPTO database for quantum computing patents APPLIED for since March 15, 2001 but not yet granted. I got 174 hits on Oct 7, 2010.
- You can search the USPTO data base for QC patents by assignee (often this is the employer of the inventor). D-Wave certainly owns more QC patents than any other company
- You can also search for patents by inventor:
I don’t know the exact numbers, but I bet about 95% of all patents make zero money for their inventors. So don’t hold your breath if you are applying for one. Nevertheless, I think it’s a good thing to write them, if only because they provide a valuable record of technological progress. The patent record winnows out the wheat (good, practical technology) from the chaff (useless theories, like quantum complexity theory, for example 🙂 ) in a way that journal publications alone don’t seem to do.
As is well-known, even Albert Einstein, the ultimate über-theorist, was a believer in patents. Einstein worked at the Swiss patent office from 1903 to 1909, a period including his Annus Mirabilis (1905). This was his first job after graduating from college, and he continued working there while he was pursuing his doctoral degree, quitting only after he finally got his first assistant professorship. Einstein also filed a few patents himself. For example, in 1930, he filed US 1781541, a patent entitled simply “Refrigerator”, coauthored with his friend Leo Lizards (a.k.a Leo Szilard if you are not dyslexic).
Some patents changed the course of history (like the Wright Brothers aviation patents). Others, not as much (like U.S. Patent 3216423 “Apparatus For Facilitating The Birth Of A Child By Centrifugal Force”). Patents are usually good to their inventors, but some inventors have been killed by their patents. See 9 Inventors Killed by Their Own Inventions (Besides The Segway) by Nicholas Jackson at The Atlantic.
Here is some advice if you are considering filing a patent. As I don’t need to remind you, lawyers are very expensive. If you are affiliated with a university or some other rich institution, then by all means use their lawyer if his services won’t cost you anything. On the other hand, if you cannot afford a lawyer and have none provided to you, you could try writing and filing the patent all by yourself without the assistance of a lawyer. I’ve done it myself a few times. If I can do it, I’m sure you can too. I found the book “Patent it Yourself” (Nolo Press) by David Pressman to be a fairly complete cookbook on how to file a patent in the US. I’ve never filed patents outside the US so I can’t help you there. You should keep in mind that in the US, you must file a patent less than one year after you publish a result (arXiv release or a public seminar constitutes publication). After one year, you lose the right to file for a patent.