Patents in Sports: Inventions that Changed the Game

Posted by Jeff Shieh

Thursday, Mar 15, 2012 @ 11:01 AM

With March Madness gearing up, it is a given that productivity in the US workplace, law firms included, will plummet. Therefore, in an attempt to satisfy your appetite for sports while imparting at least some legal educational value, this blog article discusses the benefits of patents in the sports industry, focusing on a few select patents that have improved the spectator experience.

Game replays on ESPN Classic© show just how far TV broadcasts have evolved in the past decades. The Skycam™ (US Patent No. 4,710,819) provides a bird’s eye view of a game, putting the viewer in the middle of the action. The NHL previously experimented with the trackable hockey puck (US Patent No. 5,564,698), which helped home viewers follow each pass and shot. Ball tracking technology in tennis (PCT/GB2000/004507) helps the line judges make rulings for shots too close to call by the human eye.

Patents also enhance the live sporting experience as well. For example, no contest is complete without a giant foam finger announcing that your team is indeed “#1” (D558,273). Incensed over the outrageous beer prices at your local ballpark? Keep an eye out for new beer taps that fill the cup from the bottom up, reducing foam and lost product due to spillage (PCT/US2009/044534).

These patents are just a tiny sampling of the inventions that improve the sports experience, with more being utilized every season. What innovations can you spot during this year’s NCAA basketball tournament? (Viewed on your own time, of course!)

Interested in more information on how IP law applies to sports? Our friends at Spoor & Fisher posted a recent article discussing trademarks and its relevance to sporting events.

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