It's finally breaking 70 degrees in Chicago today, and leading into a weekend, no less. I expect many of us will be in the park, playing catch or just enjoying the weather. But for those of you who just can't leave the patent world behind while you recreate, here's some food for thought.
We all know that baseball is America's pastime, and we all know that sports have become big business. So let's ask: what sport has been the subject of the most patents? A simple proxy is to search the USPTO database for all utility patents with titles containing the sport's name:
Interesting. That's a "4" for Jai-alai, by the way. Tennis actually nudges out baseball (though including "softball" pushes it over). And as of this week, Football and Basketball are tied with exactly 800 patents apiece.
But there's one sport missing from the chart above... hmm...:
Holy cow! 14,510 patents! That's about 50% more than these other sports combined. Is golf really that much more popular in the marketplace than anything else? Or does it have more technological underpinnings that allow for innovation? Perhaps it's all those frisbee golf/disc golf patents. (Not. There's 18). [4/25/09 UPDATE: These numbers are for utility patents only. There are an additional 4,900 design patents for golf.]
And what about over time? If we track the number of golf patents issued each year, we see an unsurprising correlation:
Go figure. There are a couple of noteworthy points. First, as you'd expect, tracking all patents issued over time also roughly matches the stock market and the economy.
But Golf seems to be an even tighter fit:
In other words, starting in around 1983, golf "patent market share" grew significantly and.. could it possibly be... actually led Wall Street by a few years?? That would seem strange, considering that these are patent issuances, not application filings.. and you'd think there would be more interest in golf after the market goes up, not before. If anything there should be a lag effect.
I don't consider myself a statistician, and these results are less than scientific. But I'd be intereted in your theories.
So please think about it as you hit the tees or shoot hoops or (my fave) watch the Stanley Cup playoffs this weekend, and let me know what you come up with. And if you'd like to play with the underlying data yourself, shoot me a note and I'll pass it along.