The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are in full flow and while curling has been winning a new fan in the A-Team’s Mr T (#curlingiscoolfool), IPcopy has been watching the ice hockey. Or, more accurately, our colleague Samantha Walker-Smith was watching the preliminary round match between the USA and Finland. Now, while most of us might be content in marvelling at the skating skill levels on display and mentally comparing those skills to our feeble efforts at the Christmas wonderland ice rink a few weeks ago (…or maybe that was just me), Sam had other things on her mind. In particular, Sam noticed1 that the hockey sticks of the Finnish team were displaying patent markings!
Marking a product with details of the patent or patents that cover that product can serve a couple of purposes. Firstly, it lets the public know that the product is covered by a granted patent (which may in turn deter infringers from copying) and secondly it can improve the patent owner’s chances of obtaining financial compensation if the patent is infringed.
Patent marking provisions can be found in patent legislation in the UK and also the US, to name but two examples. Patent markings may comprise placing the actual patent numbers in question on the products (as in the example of the hockey stick spotted during the match) or possibly a virtual marking in which an internet link is provided to an address which associates the product with the patent number (see IPcopy’s post on patent marking for more details on the UK position and this USPTO report which discusses the US position).
So what was covered in the case of the Finnish Olympic hockey stick2? Well, after much work playing and pausing the game on BBC iPlayer, it was possibly to make out one complete patent number US7824591, one partial patent number starting “US782” and another partial number starting with a “D” (D496703).
The Espacenet patent database is a free, publicly accessible patent database with over 100 million documents. Plugging the first patent number (US7824591) into Espacenet we can see that this patent relates to a hockey blade with a wrapped stitched core and is apparently owned by Nike Bauer Hockey Corp. Looking a little deeper at the Espacenet entry there appear to be no less than five granted US patents that are associated with this patent and two granted European patents.
The second patent number in the screenshot is incomplete but we note that Espacenet allows wildcard searching . Using a wildcard search “US782*” and the search term “hockey” leads to US patent 7824283 which relates to a pre-stressed hockey shaft that provides a stiffer and more rigid shaft portion in use.
The final number visible on the hockey stick relates to a US design patent – USD496703 to be precise.
Before we go any further it is worth highlighting a point of terminology – in the US the term “patent” can, a little confusingly, be attached to both designs and inventions. In the US, “utility patents” relate to inventions (what we in the UK/Europe would refer to as “patents”) whereas “design patents” relate to designs (what we’d refer to as “registered designs”).
So this last number doesn’t relate to an invention like the other two numbers on the hockey stick but to the ornamental design of the stick itself. The Google Patents database lists this US design patent which indicates that the design relates to the paddle portion of a goaltender stick.
So, there you have it, patents, design patents, patent searching, patent databases and patent marking all on display at the Olympics.
Mark Richardson 20 February 2018
1Apropos of nothing in particular, we note that Sam happens to be studying to take her EQE exams in a couple of weeks…
2The match in question doesn’t seem to be listed on the BBC iPlayer anymore. However, an example of a hockey stick with patent markings can be found here (though we note that some of the numbers are different).