By Matt Troyer, Director of Patent Analytics at Anaqua
With sports fans around the world celebrating one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history after golfer Tiger Woods won the US Masters at Augusta, it is timely that World Intellectual Property Day on 26 April should be celebrating sporting heroes and the role of IP in sports.
In golf, like in many sports, the margins between winning and losing can be extremely fine. While athletes’ personal endeavour, individual skill and discipline are all key drivers for success, innovation in sports technology is increasingly important in making the difference between victory and defeat.
For golfers, innovation in club design, for example, is a significant factor in improving their game and in helping them become winners. Indeed, Tiger Woods himself acknowledged the part his TaylorMade M5 460 driver (patent # US10183202 B1) played in his comeback victory in the US Masters – 14 years after his last triumph at Augusta and 11 years since his last major title (the 2008 US Open).
According to Woods during his Master’s winner’s press conference broadcasted by Golf Channel, his TaylorMade driver was dependable throughout the tournament.
“It’s the best I’ve felt with a driver in years. I was able to hit the golf ball both ways this week, and some of the shots I hit down 13, turn it around the corner, a couple of drives down 2, some of the bombs I hit down 3; and then to hit little squeezers out there down 7. You saw it today on 15 and 17 and even on 18, just little trap-squeezers out there, as well. I was able to hit both ends of the spectrum, low cuts and high draws. That’s not easy to do, so I just really felt that I had that much control in my long game and it paid off.”
Woods’ Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS putter (patent # USD661754S1) also contributed to the success of his all-round game at the Masters.
Which brings us back to the 2019 World IP Day campaign and its theme of ‘Reach for Gold’. In explaining the theme, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) says the campaign “explores how innovation, creativity and the IP rights that encourage and protect them support the development of sport and its enjoyment around the world”.
WIPO adds: “We look at how sports businesses use patents and designs to foster the development of new sports technologies, materials, training, and equipment to help improve athletic performance and engage fans worldwide.”
Inspired by this and Tiger Woods’ amazing comeback, Anaqua looked at how the ball was lying in terms of the patent landscape for golf.
According to analysis by AcclaimIP on US golf-related patents over the past 22 years, there are 7,103 active golf-related documents (3,828 active patent applications and 3,275 active grants). The analysis shows that patent filers in this golf landscape had a relatively high success rate in obtaining grants, with an 86% Allowance Rate, compared to the global average for all 41 million active matters in the database (across all sectors) of a 62% Allowance Rate.
However, this does not mean it was an easy process for filers to get their patents approved by the USPTO – the average number of Office Actions was 7.4 for the analyzed golf space whereas the global average for patents was 1.3.
The analysis also identifies the top 25 most innovative companies in the golf landscape over the past five years. Leading in golf-related grants and patent applications is Acushnet with a total of 258 active matters. The company is best known for its Titleist golf balls, so it is perhaps no surprise that Acushnet has twice the amount of golf ball patents filed than its nearest competitor in the space. Following Acushnet in most active matters are Karsten MFG (187 grants and 187 applications), Sumitomo Rubber (155 grants and 29 applications), Callaway (135 grants and 10 applications), Nike (111 grants and 15 applications) and TaylorMade (105 grants and 24 applications).
WIPO say that this year’s World IP Day is “an opportunity to celebrate our sporting heroes, and all the people around the world who are innovating behind the scenes to boost sports’ performance and its global appeal”.
As the Anaqua analysis shows, in golf alone, there are plenty of people and companies driving innovation in the sport – and helping create sporting heroes… or, in the case of Tiger Woods, a returning hero.