Swimming Patents

Fike’s “Brick” Kickboard is “First Ever” Coreboard

Fike’s “Brick” Coreboard Invention

I recently saw an article on SwimSwam about Fike Swim Product’s new kickboard. The article jogged my ongoing interest about new kickboard technology and how to patent kickboards.

An article on SwimSwam describes the “Brick” kickboard as the world’s first-ever coreboard.  The Brick is a 6 lb weighted kickboard, which allows the user to “turn any kick set into a total body workout that actually changes a swimmer’s body position in the water.”  These benefits are said to be lasting—”even after the kicking is done.”

The Brick was developed by Fike Swim Products.  Unlike other kickboards, the Brick is said to “float just enough to support its own weight, so it sinks when a swimmer places his/her arms on top, forcing the swimmer’s core, upper body, and legs to work to maintain body position on top of the water while kicking.”

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Photo of Brick coreboard that was published on SwimSwam.com

Based on the description above, this sounds like an exciting and patentable new technology.

I say “exciting” because I like the idea of getting a total body workout during kick sets–I usually kick without a board so that I get a better all-around workout.  This board could be a step beyond that!

I say it’s probably patentable because the Brick is described as the “first ever” of it’s kind and those differences appear to provide some benefits beyond anything that’s come before it.  Now they just need to convince an examiner at the patent office that the Brick is “new” and “not obvious.”

Patenting Swimming Gear

Can I Patent Swimming Gear?

Patent Swimming Gear

The Sport of Swimming Continues to Develop New Technology

Yes, technology for swimming can be patented just like any other invention.  The inventor of new swimming gear can draft patent claims and file a patent application directed to that new technology.  To be patentable, the swimming gear must be “new,” that is different from all swimmer gear existing before it.

In addition to being “new,” the invention must not be an obvious variation of swim gear that existed when the new swimming gear was invented.  The legal test for obviousness is often very complicated.  The test of “obviousness” is called the Graham Test, which we wrote about it in an early post.

As a rough guide, an inventor should be able to receive patent protection on any significant improvement over the state of the art.  (For example, a better kickboard, a new haircare composition, or a new design for a hand paddle).  In the case of swim gear: the greater the difference from existing gear, the more likely it is that the invention can be patented.  Also, if the invention provides an unexpected benefit beyond similar swimming gear, then it is probably patentable.

Patent Swimming Compositions

Swimming seeing constant changes in pool chemicals and chemical testing kits

Subject to the above requirements (new and not obvious), most categories of swimming gear should give rise to patentable subject matter.  For example, innovations in clothing, training aids, diagnostic tools, pool equipment, chemicals, sports drinks, and personal care items could all be patented.

Innovative swimmers have been developing new products for decades.  For example, in 1988, Eney Jones patented the Eney Bouy, which us patented in U.S. Patent No. 4,929,205.  Recently, Playcore invented a new Colorado Timing Systems Titanium deck plate for Colorado Timing Systems.  See US Patent Number 8,602.815 (“Swimming pool deckplate for horizontal surfaces with integrated slopes around electrical contacts”).

Chadeayne LLC’s President, Dr. Andrew Chadeayne has personal experience patenting products for swimmers.  Several years back, he developed the first chlorine removal product that actually eliminates chlorine from hair and skin.  Because of his expertise in chemical patent law, he filed a handful of patent applications directed to SwimSpray.  Those patent applications have been instrumental in developing SwimSpray’s business.

How to patent swimming technology?

As stated above, patenting swimming technology should follow roughly the same course as patenting other technology.  In the swimming arts, the inventive process could follow a path like this:

  • The inventor has an idea for a swimming product;
  • the inventor refines the idea;
  • the inventor designs a prototype;
  • the inventor builds the prototype and tests it;
  • the inventor refines the prototype and builds a commercial embodiment.

The above scheme may skip steps or include additional steps.  In any event, one clear omission in the list above is filing a patent application.  To own the invention, the inventor must claim the invention in a patent application.

When should the inventor of a new swimming technology file a patent application?

The inventor should file a provisional patent application before disclosing the invention to others.  Ideally the inventor should file a patent application as soon as they can clearly define and describe the invention.  The inventor does not need to build the invention or even make a prototype.  The inventor only needs to provide clear instructions for how someone in the industry could make and use the invention.

Filing a provisional patent application allows the inventor to discuss the idea with potential business partners while minimizing the risk of having the idea stolen.  Filing a provisional patent application also gives the inventor one year to refine the invention and file a regular patent application.

Patenting a Kickboard

Did Speedo Patent it’s New Kick Board?

New kickboard with superior buoyancy?

New kickboard with superior buoyancy?

We recently published an article on patenting swimming gear.  Swimming gear can range from pool equipment (like lane lines, starting blocks, etc.) to training devices (like kickboards, hand paddles, and goggles).  Just like other technology, swimming gear can be patented.  The only restriction is that it must be new and not simply an “obvious” variation on existing swimming gear.  Today, we saw a post from Speedo on Facebook, advertising a “new” kickboard – the Speedo Elite Kickboard.

Here is a video on YouTube, featuring Dan Bullock, discussing the Speedo Elite Kickboard:

As noted in the video, the Speedo Elite Kickboard was “engineered” to isolate the upper body.  It was also “designed” to aid development of upper body technique.

Given that Speedo seems to have invested significant research dollars in designing and engineering a new kickboard, we were curious as to what advances Speedo made in kickboard technology.

Speedo's new elite kickboard goes "a step beyond" the prior art kickboards

Speedo’s new elite kickboard goes “a step beyond” the prior art kickboards

According to Amazon’s review “this particular kickboard had been engineered for optimum buoyancy.”  Noting that “[t]he aim of all kickboards is to improve leg strength and technique,” Amazon distinguished the Speedo Elite kickboard on account of its “ergonomic design,” which ensures the perfect position in the water.  The shape and design also apparently improve comfort by supporting the users arms during use.

 

Given the above described advantages, it seems curious that Speedo did not patent this kickboard.  Given that the “Elite Kickboard provides superb buoyancy in the water, allowing every swimmer to focus more easily on improving their technique,” one would imagine that the product could be distinguished based on it’s density and potentially the material used to manufacture it.

New, Different Things Can be Patented

Given how Speedo describes the Elite as a “new” design, having superb properties, it seems that the technology would have been patentable at the time it was invented.  In order for Speedo to have protected its invention, the company would have needed to draft a patent application having claims that emphasized the unique features of the invention.  Here, the shape and buoyancy appear to be points of distinction.  Good claim drafting would emphasize those features as a means for distinguishing the new technology from the prior art.

One Year Time Limit for Patenting

Unfortunately, our further research show that Speedo’s “new” kickboard really isn’t that new.  Speedo published an article in their newsroom with a picture of the Elite in February of 2011. In the United States, an inventor has one year to file a patent application after disclosing it to others.  Here, that one year window has closed.  Hopefully Speedo filed a patent application within one year after disclosing the invention.  However, the packaging does not provide any clues as to the patent status or application number(s).

In contrast to Speedo, the Kiefer Company have demonstrated how to effectively protect its kickboard inventions by filing a patent application.  Here is an article discussing Kiefer’s Core Kickboard.