Olympians benefit from patents too

The IPKat's learned but fun-loving friend Ruth Soetendorp has been pondering the IP dimensions to Olympic Games from a refreshingly different angle. Not for Ruth are the run-of-the-mill discussions of ambush marketing, protection of the Olympic symbol and sports sponsorship. Instead, she considers the impact of excellence in sport upon the patent sector. Ruth writes:
"If you find the idea of watching the Olympics distinctly resistible (heaven forfend) you could find an amusing diversion searching the databases (e.g. espacenet) for 'sports patents' [says the IPKat, it may not be much fun doing so this weekend or next, since espacenet's excellent services "may be temporarily interrupted due to essential maintenance"].

Hearing of the great success of Michael Phelps in the Water Cube, espacenet provided evidence that Beijing swimming achievements appear to owe a lot to the speedo® LZR ® swimsuits. A quick check on espacenet listed 28 speedo® patent applications, some featuring GB women inventors, some filed as recently August 2008. This means that speedo® will have been inventing and registering almost to the last minute – trying to make sure that their innovations are protected.

There is much insight about the problems facing sports men and women to be gained from reading the patent specifications, which identify the problems and describe the way in which technical solutions have been found to minimise them.

Swimmers, for example, need different style Speedo swimsuits to optimise their performance when swimming different strokes.

Here are a few examples from different sports, all almost all filed in the weeks leading up to the start of the games in Beijing.

Equestrians have historically found it physically challenging, time consuming and monetarily costly if employing the services of a coach, to acquire harmonious movement with the horse, commonly called the independent seat which is a fundamental requirement for correct riding technique. The problem with acquiring an independent seat is how the equestrian discovers correct pelvic movement. The purpose of this invention is to assist equestrians autonomously to acquire and refine an independent seat AU 2007216690

When weightlifters are performing various freestanding leg exercises such as, but not limited to, regular squats, wide legged squats, front squats, stationary lunges, and alternating lunges, it is beneficial to maintain correct posture and have support for back and upper torso. This support becomes more crucial as the weightlifter increases the amount of weight he or she is lifting. Maintaining proper posture and support reduces the risk of injury and improves the quality of the exercise. Existing weightlifting accessories are intended strictly for easing the tension of the weight bar along the neckline, and provide no upper body support or assistance in maintaining the proper form when training. US2008182735

Divers need to use goggles. The face-pieces of divers goggles comprise a seat for the diver's nose, which, in the case of goggles of the double-lens type, is situated between two rigid frames for fixing the lenses of the goggles, while in the case of single-lens goggles, it is situated between the central uprights-shaped substantially in the form of an inverted V-of the single frame which supports the lens. One of the problems which these face-pieces pose is that, when the diver turns his/her head to one side or the other, the lens-fixing frames make contact with the diver's nostrils, causing considerable discomfort for the diver. US2008120767

Wrestlers need to protect their ears when engaging in their sport. Protective head gear, i.e., wrestling helmets and wrestling ear guards are well known in the art. Most athletic sanctioning bodies require the use of such headgear in order to compete. Typically such headgear includes a pair of ear coverings or cup-like guards secured to the wearer's head by means of straps that extend over the top of the head, around the rear of the head, and under the chin. The guards, which cover and protect the wearer's ears, contain a pad that is necessary for the wearer's comfort and protection. The ear pads are shaped to provide an ear receiving pocket which extends around the outside of the ear and against the wearer's head. The present invention provides a wrestling headgear that is lightweight and provides for good ventilation and unimpaired hearing while protecting a wrestler's ears. US2008010727

In water polo, swimming and other water sports there is a need in the art for a drying system that effectively dries water in the inner ear canal caused by swimming and participation in water based sports including diving and water surfing. Not only does water present in the inner ear canal need to be removed, but water in the outer ear must also be removed since movement of the head may permit water droplets from the outer ear to enter the inner ear canal. The process of drying these water droplets requires delivery of warm air at a velocity and warmth sufficiently low that the sensitive anatomical structure of the ear is not affected. WO2006US34237 20060831 (2007)

Boxers have a need for new and improved training devices that can train all aspects of boxing and kick-boxing in one training session. An innovative sparring partner is disclosed in US2008119335. Boxers appear to be in need of "Novel pneumatic boxing protecting underpants" disclosed inCN20072006887U 20070425 [Merpel wonders if boxing underpants are somehow connected to boxer shorts ...].

Table tennis players may be scrambling in future to make sure the "Almightiness type table tennis racquet" disclosed in CN20061124461 20060906 is part of their kit.

It is hard imagine that the original Olympians competed naked without benefit of innovative underpants, or any other garments or equipment that modern Olympians take for granted.

If you are still bored, why not try to update the Olympics board game disclosed in United States Patent 4241924, published in 1980. There’s 4 years left to perfect the product that will have London enthralled".
The IPKat's mind boggles at divers' goggles ...
Olympians benefit from patents too Olympians benefit from patents too Reviewed by Jeremy on Sunday, August 17, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. Thank goodness. The secret of coming top of the medal table in London 2012 is now revealed - read the problems revealed in the patent specifications and get hold of the products incorporating the solutions. Sorted.

    There was I thinking the key lay in persuading Michael Phelps to change his nationality ....

  2. Distinguo. I don't think these examples were 'filed' in the weeks leading up to the Beijing Olympics - if they had been, we wouldn't know what they were about yet. They must have been - prudently - filed at least a year earlier.


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