IonQ Prepares to Go Public. Are Its Patents Prepared?

IonQ is about to become the first publicly traded company purely dedicated to quantum computing. IonQ is expected to complete its combination with dMY Technology Group III at the end of September 2021 and go public, expecting to receive gross proceeds of about $600 million. This is certainly an exciting moment for the quantum computing sector as a whole, but how is IonQ’s patent portfolio supporting its move?

IonQ’s patents are focused on ion trap computers, with a focus on a variety of different hardware elements. Ion trap computers are not the subject of a very large percentage of quantum computing research going on right now. However, IonQ is well-positioned within that niche. IonQ has 40 patent assets over the past three years, 32 of which are specific to ion trap computers. By comparison, Honeywell, the second largest company in the space, has only 19 patent assets dedicated to ion trap computers. Other than IonQ and Honeywell, most of the patents in the space are assigned to Duke University or the University of Maryland

However, IonQ’s portfolio is not without its weaknesses. First, there is the inherent risk of relying entirely on ion trap technology, which has the potential to face stronger obstacles than more popular technologies such as superconductors and which has had issues with scaling. Second, unlike many of the top assignees in quantum computing, IonQ does not have patents relating to measurement and readout of its qubits. Its lack of coverage doesn’t mean IonQ hasn’t thought about these issues, but it does mean that it might be a vulnerable spot in its portfolio that could force it to partner with another company with better coverage in the area, like IBM. Finally, several of IonQ’s patents appear to be co-assigned to the University of Maryland, or to Duke University, which could cause issues with enforcement later.

For more on the growth of the quantum computing market and the IP supporting it, follow the Quantum Computing Patent Forecast!