Patents and push-passes

22 February 2016

Our in-house analyst, David Beet, takes a look at patenting activity in field hockey.

As Kate Richardson-Walsh becomes Great Britain's joint most capped hockey player after chalking up her 335th appearance against Australia last week, her dodging, dribbling, scooping and flicking is only part of hockey’s story. Behind Kate and her team mates, and over many preceding years, there have been cohorts of scientists, engineers and designers working hard to develop and improve the equipment upon which the athletes’ success and safety depends. 

Women playing hockey

We’ve been looking at some of the patented technologies behind the game of field hockey and here’s a taste of what we found:

Hockey sticks: As might be expected, numerous patents can be found relating to hockey sticks, be that their shape or the way in which they are constructed. Grays of Cambridge (now Grays International), a name synonymous with hockey equipment, obtained US Patent No. 4512573 in 1985 for a  hockey stick with a “hook” or U-shaped head, invented by Dutchman Toon Coolen. This became the first mass-produced hockey stick and is still the most popular form of hockey stick today. More recent technological advances in hockey sticks have included reinforcing channels, adjustable weighting and various forms of contouring to improve grip and control of the ball.

Sports clothing: Patenting hi-tech sports clothing to regulate a player’s body temperature is a competitive area, with companies such as Nike and Adidas featuring strongly. Hockey is a contact sport and so a number of patents address the challenge of providing protective yet breathable garments. For example, Adidas have obtained US Patent No. 8356366 for a protective glove having a flexible cuff with ventilation openings to keep the hand cool:

 

Hockey glove diagram

Playing surface: Over time international hockey has moved away from real grass to a series of artificial playing surfaces which have been developed to increase pace, footing and playability. Various forms of synthetic grass or turf have been developed, often using sand or rubber infill to increase grip and surface playability. But rubber infill, while effective, is known to increase the temperature of the artificial turf. And so we have US Patent US 2012/0258811, filed by Sapturf, LLC, for infill cooling granules coated with a super absorbent polymer, to provide cooling to the turf. More recently, US 2013/034671 suggests the use of chlorophyll in artificial turf to reflect infrared radiation and so prevent the turf – and the players – from overheating.

What will they think of next?

Our Expert

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