With the NHL and NBA playoffs behind us, and as summer finally heats up, we can turn our sports attention fully to baseball. The image at the right, by the way, is from D594,515, issued yesterday for a "Transparent Baseball Bat." I guess that's not as dangerous as a transparent ball.
I was curious to see if any of the 30 Major League teams owned any patents. One possibility, I thought, was the L.A. Dodgers, who for a while had a knack for finding and developing talent that was unmatched (e.g., 63rd round draft pick Mike Piazza; a 4-peat (1979-82) and a five-peat (1992-96) of Rookies of the Year; etc.). Did they have some unique tools at their disposal? Another candidate was the Oakland A’s, with Billy Beane’s quantification methodologies for identifying undervalued players, as described in Michael Lewis’s Moneyball. And, of course, perhaps the Yankees simply bought IP they thought was valuable.
Unsurprisingly, nothing turned up. Most likely, if any teams did have some homegrown weaponry, they were almost certainly keeping them under wraps as trade secrets, rather than adding those techniques to “the public storehouse of knowledge.” Looking to basketball for an example, the Houston Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, has gone on the record about holding his Beane-like statistical algorithms very close to the vest. [Brush with fame: Morey was a student of mine when I TA’ed comp sci classes at Northwestern.] And besides, would MLB really allow one team to sue another for patent infringement? And MLB has some patents, too – one of their own (U.S. Patent No. 7,486,943) and four that it bought and were the subject of last year’s DDB Technologies LLC case in the Federal Circuit.
But it just so happens that there are a few patents tangentially related to particular teams. I’ll follow up with one or two posts that look in more detail at a couple of the more interesting ones. Stay tuned.
For now, here are the results of my first, simplistic search: team names appearing anywhere in the spec. “Chicago Cubs”, for example. In addition to possibly identifying IP owned by teams, it is also is a good indicator of a team’s popularity with inventors, who often use them as examples of their inventions’ embodiments. Damn Yankees are first here, too.
|Team||# Patents Mentioning|
|Boston Red Sox||16|
|Toronto Blue Jays||15|
|San Francisco Giants||14|
|St. Louis Cardinals||9|
|San Diego Padres||7|
|Chicago White Sox||4|
|Kansas City Royals||2|
|Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays||0|
* - 3 as California Angels, 1 as LA Angels. None as Anaheim.
On deck: perhaps the only patent with an MLB player as an inventor. And he’s an All-Star.