Evolution of soccer via patents : A birds eye view of the field

by | Jun 23, 2018

The season of soccer’s (football) biggest carnival is here. Soccer (football) may be the most popular sport all over Europe and other parts of the world, in Europe alone it is estimated to generate around $28 billion a year. Professional leagues generate the most revenue in comparison to any game. The Barclays Premier League in England has an estimated revenue of around $5.17 billion every year.

In today’s parlance we can say that with the increasing numbers in revenue and viewership, technological advancements have been made in leaps and bounds to make the game more challenging and fair to both sides playing and for the referees to have a firm grip on the proceedings of the game.

The most important place in the history of soccer (football), turning it into the universal household sport we all know, goes to this legendary US patent {US3633A} by ‘Charles Guudyear’. Harnessing this had practical applications in many fields , primarily in sports where it meant that a certain level of uniformity could be achieved, which was not earlier possible as the earlier model footballs. These contained an actual pig’s bladder and naturally the ball was subject to the natural fluctuations and irregularities. The process of vulcanizing rubber allowed it to be malleable in certain conditions but the finished product was such that it could withstand both extreme cold and hot temperatures, giving birth to the modern football.

With the passage of time, many others have stamped their signature in the production and innovation of the soccer ball. Even beyond the ball, different technological advancements have made it possible to track various aspects of the game. Puma the german multinational company has a unique patent {US8,382,619} relating to the production of a soccer ball claiming it will have a steady spring constant at the point of impact. Adidas has been the frontrunner in this domain, as producer of all the soccer balls used in World Cups for the last 40 years, starting from the inception of using the signature black and white spotted balls in the 1970 world cup. Multiple patents which bring about changes in the efficacious use of the ball have been in Adidas’s forte {US8622856B2},{US8529386B2},{US7753813B2}. The 2014 official ball “Brazuca” had a unique 6-panel design that’s custom-molded and attached to maintain shape and provide stable aerodynamics.

The advancements in the playing field are not only limited to the players and the ball or the apparatus they are playing with, the referees also play an integral part in ensuring a smooth game. Various gears and wearables have been patented which provide the on field referee the exact minute of the goal, these devices are also used for communicating with the other referees with respect to any game situation {US20070010335A1}.

Technological innovations and advancements in soccer are on the rise, and this is still a young field to explore. So what will we be looking at for the 2018 World Cup? For the first time, Russia will be hosting a World Cup, so we will be able to see a subtle nod to the hosting nation in the game ball’s design, as to what aesthetic and functional improvements are brought about, we shall have to wait and see…

Litigated Patents in (and on) the field:

A patent application (US2004213984A1) was refused by USPTO (Darts reference : bpai_fd2008001400-07-28-2009-There is a pending infringement action (Darts-ip reference : 1:18-cv-10876darts-975-230- that have been filed on May 2018 before Massachusetts District Court based on a patent (US6973746) about a ‘soccer shoe having independently supported lateral and medial sides. This brazilan equivalent of this US patent was accepted in Brazil by INPI (Brazilian patent office) on april 2016 (Darts-ip reference : PI0412784 darts-384-367-E-pt).

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