Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Patenting Sporting Event

Dear Rich: I developed a new sporting event and would like to find out how I can go about getting it patented or copyrighted? I have read about other types of inventions but not about the development of a new sport. The short answer to your question is that you may be able to patent your new sport but you will have a hard time claiming a copyright. Patents have been issued for new games, (ping-pong poker, anyone?) for variations on existing games (arena football anyone?), and even for competitive techniques within sports (ready to improve your putting?). (You can read more about these sorts of patents in this article.) Under a recent patent ruling a process or method (such as a sport with rules), may qualify for a patent if it affects some hardware -- that is, it is tied to a particular machine, object, or apparatus, or it transforms an object into a different state or thing. In short, as long as your 'invention' includes a physical element such as a football, hockey stick or some other object or hardware, you probably satisfy this requirement.
 As for copyright, you cannot copyright a system or method (although you can copyright expressions of that game -- for example, a Wii version of the sport, a book about it, or demonstration videos). Of course, the Dear Rich staff notes that your biggest challenge may not be getting the patent, it could be gathering the resources to stop others from playing it without paying you.