Fun in the Sun Patent Style: Swimming Pool Patents

By Steve Brachmann
July 16, 2013

Water Basketball and Volleyball Game Apparatus

When the weather gets hotter, scores of people head to the beach, public pools or go to a friend or family member’s house to lounge in a backyard pool. When people get together, competitive games are sure to break out. This week in IPWatchdog’s Summer Fun 2013 series, we’re looking at issued patents and applications that are geared towards aquatic athletes of all kinds.

Water sports can take on a number of strange forms. We’re familiar with water volleyball and water polo, among other games, but competitive water sports can take on many forms. For example, many Eastern rowing enthusiasts take part in “dragon races”; many of these competitions happen in China, where the sport originates, but North American cities like Toronto have played host to this event. This summer, reports from American regions like the Great Lakes indicate that water levels are higher than normal this year, enticing many to take to bodies of water where they can play various games.

Today, we’ll start by taking a look at a few patents issued to inventors by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office regarding different aquatic sports. One patent protects a water polo-style goal that provides a better gameplay experience than previous designs, while another provides for netting installation that keeps a ball in play if a throwing player misses the goal. Another patent protects a new style of athletic shoe for water sports.

We also feature two patent applications that would improve water sports experiences for players. One patent application would protect a rigid sports cap for swimmers to prevent head injuries. A final application featured here provides for a secure support apparatus that can be outfitted for either water basketball or water volleyball.

[Patent-Watch]

Sports Play Pool
U.S. Patent No. 6428431

Water sports played in a pool, like water volleyball or water polo, often require the use of a ball to play. One issue with using a ball for water sports is that if a player tosses the ball and it misses the goal, it can skip out of the pool. In these instances, the game has to stop so that a player can leave the pool and retrieve the ball.

Solo inventor Donald Gordon of Draper, UT, has devised a specialized pool frame for water sports. This patent, issued by the USPTO, protects a frame extending upward from a pool around which netting can be installed, so that the entire circumference of the pool is enclosed by netting. This system can be installed into the pool deck of an in-ground pool or anchored around the sides of an above-ground pool.

Claim 1 of this issued patent gives Mr. Draper protections over:

“A sports play pool, comprising: pool means holding water to create a water pool wherein the pool means is an above ground swimming pool with inflatable sides; frame means extending upwardly from the pool means to provide a supporting structure above the pool means wherein the frame means includes inflatable tubular support members secured to and extending upwardly from the top of the inflatable sides of the pool, said support members curving as they extend upwardly from the inflatable sides of the pool to which they are secured and coming together over the pool; sport apparatus means secured to the frame means whereby the sport apparatus is attached to and supported above the pool means by the frame means wherein the sport apparatus means includes attachment devices secured to the support members for attachment of the sport apparatus to the support members to be supported in a play position above the pool; netting means supported by the frame means around at least a portion of the periphery of the pool to form backstops to prevent loose sport apparatus used in conjunction with the supported sport apparatus in play of the sport involved from leaving the pool wherein the netting means is netting material supported by the support members around at least a portion of the periphery of the pool; and a cover secured over the water in the pool means and resting on the water to create a sports play surface on the cover.”

Portable Goal Apparatus for Use in Swimming Pool-Based Activities
U.S. Patent No. 6428431

Water polo is an aquatic sport in which two teams of players, usually seven players on either side, defend their goal and attempt to score on the opposite team with a ball. Portable water polo goal nets allow people to set up a playing environment in many different pools. However, these portable goal nets often have a clearance between the water and the bottom crossbar that can prevent low-flying shots from entering the goal. As well, the posts and crossbars on these nets are often made from materials that become deformed when a ball hits them.

In 2002, the USPTO awarded joint inventors John Carlton Seaver and Nicholas Seaver, both of Arcadia, CA, the right to protect a portable net designed for water polo. This goal net design uses a ballast installed on either post to float on the water, and the bottom crossbar extends beneath the water. A support system between the goalposts and back assembly helps transfer energy from ball deflections to the pool deck, protecting the shape of the goal.

As Claim 1 explains, the inventors have won the right to protect:

“An apparatus for use with a swimming pool having a deck, defining a top surface and an edge extending downwardly from the top surface, and having an interior region at least partially filled with water defining a water line, the apparatus comprising: an athletic goal defining a bottom portion; a ballast device including at least one hollow ballast storage member which defines an interior ballast storage region that removably stores ballast material and rests directly on the top surface of the deck when the athletic goal is within the interior region of the swimming pool; and a support assembly operably connecting the athletic goal to the ballast device such that the bottom portion of the athletic goal will be below the ballast device when the ballast device is on the top surface of the deck and the athletic goal is within the interior region of the swimming pool, the support assembly including at least one hollow support member connected to the at least one hollow ballast storage member and defining a support member interior region; wherein the interior ballast storage region and the support member interior region are separated by a plug.”

Footwear for Water Sports
U.S. Patent No. 5771610

Clothing has been developed for a variety of water sports, such as wetsuits that help keep the human body streamlined while swimming. However, footwear for aquatic sports remain largely undeveloped. Those engaging in water sports usually choose from either athletic shoes, wetsuit boots or bare feet. However, water can cause athletic shoes to deteriorate. Wetsuit boots can retain water and cause medical issues if a foot is kept within the damp environment for too long. Bare feet are unprotected from injury in the case of a fall.

Outdoor clothing designer Patagonia was issued a patent from the USPTO in 1998 to protect wearable footwear for water sports applications. The footwear is designed as an athletic sneaker with a rubber sole for good traction in wet environments. The sides of the shoe are constructed of mesh that doesn’t retain moisture, protecting the shoe and the foot from the negative effects of water. The shoe includes a neoprene gasket which is designed to create a watertight seal around the wearer’s ankle.

Claim 1 of this issued patent gives Patagonia legal protections over:

“A piece of footwear, said footwear comprising:

a sole, said sole comprising a textured surface;

a mesh lateral side, said mesh lateral side having small apertures that prevent the transmission of sand;

an ankle gasket, said ankle gasket comprising a large opening in an elastic material, said opening having a toe end and a heel end; and

a tongue, said tongue located within said ankle gasket at said toe end, said tongue cooperating with said ankle gasket to provide a seal around an ankle area of said footwear, wherein lifting of said tongue stretches said elastic material to enlarge said opening in said elastic material.”

Water Basketball and Volleyball Game Apparatus
U.S. Patent Application No. 20120252605

Basketball and volleyball are both court sports that have been adapted to swimming pool applications. Nets for both sports have been created which either float on the surface, typically in the case of water basketball, or are secured to a pool deck, in the case of volleyball. However, this equipment is usually pretty flimsy; basketball nets can be easily overturned, and if a player contacts the volleyball net, it can affect the supports to the point that a game must be stopped to fix the net.

This patent application, filed with the USPTO by Pablo Monroy of Anaheim, CA, would protect an apparatus that could be configured to provide either a basketball or volleyball net, either of which would be better secured against player contact. This apparatus involves two bases that sit on either side of a pool deck. A volleyball net can be strong between both posts, or an adjustable-height basketball net can be extended over the pool from one post. The base prevents either net from being greatly affected during gameplay.

As Claim 1 states, Mr. Monroy is seeking the right to protect:

“An apparatus, comprising: a basketball apparatus which includes a first base; a primary pillar extending upwardly from the first base; a horizontal post extending horizontally from the primary pillar; and a basketball goal coupled to the horizontal post; and a volleyball apparatus which includes a net coupled to the primary pillar; and a second base with a secondary pillar extending upwardly therefrom, the net being coupled to the secondary pillar.”

Sports/Swimming Head Protection Device
U.S. Patent Application 20110113533

Head injuries have been a major focus in sport health during recent years. In swimming events, especially for backstroke or freestyle events, swimmers sometimes approach a wall without being able to view it. Also, many of these events require an underwater flip so that a swimmer can retain momentum by pushing off the wall. In these cases, many swimmers open themselves up to head injuries by contacting the wall with their heads.

This patent application, filed by solo inventor Manuel Gullen of Fairfax, VA, protects a helmet that is designed to be both lightweight while in the water yet provide effective protection for a wearer’s head. The helmet uses a soft pliable cap to adhere to the wearer’s skull, while utilizing a rigid plate with enough strength to protect a head in case of contact with a pool wall.

Claim 1 of this patent application would give Mr. Gullen the right to protect:

“A swimming/sports head protection device, comprising: a cap configured to cover at least a portion of an upper head portion, side, head portions, and back head portion of a user’s head, said cap being made of a rigid and resilient material closely conforming to a shape and size of the user’s head, said cap being configured to resiliently capture an upper portion of the user’s head and resiliently grip the user’s head by opposed spaced apart longitudinal gripping portions and opposed spaced apart transverse side gripping portions.”

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

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