We are delighted to present the fourth issue of The Global IP Matrix magazine to you, our loyal readers.
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Patent Landscape of Sports-Related Concussion Bio: Liang Wang (MSc in Environmental and Energy Engineering from Sheffield University) is a Senior IP Manager at Patent Seekers Limited and has developed an expertise in patent search and analysis across multiple disciplines. He is a key member of the company’s patent search teams, involved in over 16000 searches for international patent attorneys both in private practice, in-house and for major blue-chip companies. “Every April 26, we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day to learn about the role that intellectual property (IP) rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity. This year’s World Intellectual Property Day campaign – Reach for Gold – takes a closer look inside the world of sports. It explores how innovation, creativity and the IP rights that encourage and protect them support the development of sport and its enjoyment around the world.” – World Intellectual Property Organisation This article presents an overall review of the patent landscape of sportsrelated concussion. Introduction Concussion: Temporary unconsciousness or confusion and other symptoms caused by a blow on the head. – Oxford Dictionary. Effects are usually temporary but can include headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance, and coordination. Concussions are a surprisingly common occurrence in sports. Although it is a temporary injury to the brain, it can lead to serious and longer-lasting problems. We hear the word “concussion” quite often these days across different sports, including but not limited to rugby, football and basketball: “Cillian Willis was forced to end his rugby career”, “Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech suffered from a severe concussion in a football match”, “Liam Picken was forced to retire from AFL due to concussion” etc. Over the last decade, the sports-related concussion has become a significant concern among the public, sports, and clinical professionals. There have been numerous attempts at preventing concussion in sports, such as change of certain rules, use of protective equipment, improved training methodology, monitoring/detecting of concussion, etc. Mr Liang Wang - Senior IP Manager at Patent Seekers Limited www.patentseekers.com How rapidly is new innovation taking place in this space? From the chart above, we can see that there were steady numbers of publications each year since 2000. The number of patent filings appears to start to rise in 2010, with a big surge occurring from 2013 onwards; this may be attributed to the beginning of awareness of concussions in sports. The apparent dip in filings in 2017/2018 is most likely explained by applications that have yet to be published and would be claiming those years as a priority. It could be anticipated that the number of concussionrelated patent filings will continue to increase in the coming years as to how to prevent sports relatedconcussion has become a huge topic globally. There have been numerous efforts for prevention and mitigation of sports-related concussion, including the use of protective equipment, improved sports regulations and legislation, concussion education and improved monitoring of concussion. What are the trends in technology focus? There have been numerous efforts for prevention and mitigation of sports-related concussion, including the use of protective equipment, improved sports regulations and legislation, concussion education and improved monitoring of concussion. The heat map at the bottom of the previous page shows the number of patent publications placed in the top 20 IPC classifications over the last 20 years. It appears that most of the patent filings fall in the classifications of A42B3 (Helmets; Helmet covers; Other protective head coverings) and A61B5 (Detecting, measuring or recording for diagnostic purposes; Identification of persons), which demonstrates the technology areas where companies/organisations focus on. From a further drill-down analysis, A42B3/06 (Impact-absorbing shells, e.g. of crash helmets), A42B3/12 (Cushioning devices) and A63B71/10 (Games or sports accessories for the head) appear to have the most publications in the area of protective equipment, there also appears to be plenty of activity happening in the concussion monitoring area as shown in A61B5/11 (Measuring movement of the entire body or parts thereof, e.g. head or hand tremor, mobility of a limb). By use of the latest technologies across different areas, it would be expected that there will be more efficient ways to prevent concussion in sports to better protect athletes from serious brain injuries. What is the global origin of this technology? As discussed above, the prevention of sports-related concussion has become a global awareness, which can be clearly seen from this map, showing the distribution of the top 20 priority countries in this field. The United States appears to be the most active country in this technical area, almost triple the number of publications compared to China and Canada, who are also fairly energetic. Other leading countries include Japan, Australia and some European countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Italy. The above chart shows that companies and individuals all over the world have a great interest in developing new technology and filing related patents in this area. Who are the current market leaders? This chart shows the companies which have the most patent filings in this field and indicates the current market leaders, actively involved in the field of sports-related concussion. Riddell, an American company specialising in sports equipment for American football, appears to have the most publications (mostly relating to helmets). Other leading companies in the area of protective equipment include Bauer, Easton Sports, Kranos, Bell Sports and Salomon, etc. BrainScope, a medical neuro-technology firm using artificial intelligence to assess a variety of neurological conditions including concussion, appears to be the top company leading patent filings in concussion measuring/detecting technology. IBM and Blast Motion also seem to be interested in the area of sensing technology for concussion. This chart also appears to be well in line with the above “technology focus” chart. Technology Landscape This patent landscape map shows the distribution of patents in the data set based on relatedness of text, providing a visualisation of the technology clusters prevalent within the sports-related concussion portfolio and revealing a diverse set of interests. There appear to be plenty of patent filing activities in the area of development of protective equipment, which can be seen from those red, green and brown clusters. Although concussions are not always preventable and there may not be a magic product on the market currently for preventing concussions, helmets can protect against more severe head injuries. It appears that the helmet is the main technology focus, which can be explained as the most obvious and potentially the most effective way to prevent concussion if they can be properly designed with the help of latest technology, such as new material with high energy absorbency and improved design of the helmet layers. In addition to the above, companies and individual inventors have also put numerous efforts into the field of advanced detecting and measuring of concussion, including biometric assessment, electrical simulation, and rehabilitation. All these new and improved technologies will be of great help for early and better diagnosis of concussion, which can eventually lead to successful treatment and prevention of any related sequela. Conclusions This overview of the patent landscape surrounding sports-related concussion has revealed that the use of protective equipment and motoring/detecting of concussion are the two main areas where the majority of companies are trying to dive into and invest. There has already been a great number of patent filings relating to the development of products and technologies, and it could be anticipated that this will continue in the coming years as sports-related concussion has emerged as a major public health and clinical concern due to the increased number of diagnosis worldwide. It would be wonderful if technology could solve the sports-related concussion crisis, and there should be more and better research into how to prevent concussion and therefore protect athletes’ health. 34 www.gipmatrix.com www.gipmatrix.com 35