Intellectual Property (IP) of the Super Bowl 2016

From advertising and touchdowns, to massive TV audiences and the always-hyped halftime concert, the Super Bowl® is the most-watched event on American television. On the field, in the stands, and behind the scenes, here are some of the key technologies and trademarks behind the National Football League’s marquee event.

The Poster

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Super Bowl technology


The Organizers


Founded: 1920

Structure: Trade association

Est. 2015 Revenue: $13 Billion (incl. teams)

Registered trademarks include: Super Bowl®, Super Sunday®, NFL®, AFC®”, “NFC®. The NFL also holds registration for images and logos and team names.


The Venue

Levis stadium
Opened: July 17, 2014

Cost: $1.3 Billion

Capacity: 68,500

Owner: Santa Clara Stadium Authority

Environmental: Gold LEED certified




The Intellectual Property

Blending a graphic         

US 6229550 B1 – Sportvision, Inc.

One of the core patents of the Emmy-Award winning Virtual Yellow 1st & Ten® technology that ESPN unveiled in 1998. Invented by Stanford Engineering alum Stan Honey, this video overlay innovation changed the viewing experience for football fans.

 Virtual Yellow 1st & Ten-400

Kicking Tee

Kicking tee     

Number: Des. 383,816 – H. Jay Spiegel

The GROUND ZERO(R)-1 has been used in every NFL game in the 21st century. Invented by a former Cornell University kicker, it’s what to use when you want to kick a football out of the end zone on the fly!

Multilayer air-cushion shell with energy-absorbing layer for use in the construction of protective headgear

US 20060059606 A1 – Xenith Athletics, Inc.

Used in its Virginia Tech 5-star rated EPIC model, Xenith’s invention integrates three levels of compressible air chambers that produce rate-sensitive responses to both direct and shearing impacts.

 Xenith Helmet
 Collapsible Goal Posts

Collapsible goal post for American football

US 8496547 B2 – First Down Football Products, Inc.

Levi’s Stadium was the first NFL stadium to install automatic, collapsible posts that use a hydraulic motor to raise and lower the uprights and cross bar to the playing surface.

Solar cells and solar cell modules

7,339,110; 7,897,867; 7,390,961 – SunPower Corp.

Three of the many patents comprising SunPower’s high-efficiency Maxeon solar cell that generates PV electricity from three NRG Energy-branded pedestrian bridges and the NRG Solar Terrace.

 Sunpower Logo

Ticket validation system

US 9038896 B2 – Venuenext, Inc.

Venue Next, founded by 49ers owner Jed York, provides the stadium’s ticket reading system. Cameras, RFID and NFC elements help make event ticketing and validation a digitally secure experience.

Personal media devices with wireless communication         

US 8718620 B2 – Apple, Inc. 

Apple’s patent covering short-range wireless communication is used in Aruba Networks’ Wi-Fi and beacon technology. More than 1,000 Aruba beacons enable fans to use the stadium’s navigation app.

Aruba Beacon
SEM Steel Logo

Double core brace

US 7185462 B1 – SME Steel Contractors, Inc.

SME’s CoreBrace buckling restrained braces are designed to help the stadium’s steel structure resist seismic loads, and absorb the impact of earthquakes by deforming before the strain affects core members.

Network of intelligent machines         

US 20140279717 A1 – Qylur Security Systems, Inc.

The Qylatron Entry Experience Solution helps ensure venue security by combining proprietary and open-source technologies in a self-learning and updating system to quickly and accurately screen bags and other items.



Two-layer compression bandage system and methods of making and using the same

EP 2514397 A3 – Andover Healthcare, Inc.

A bandage and tape manufacturer of 35 years, Andover combined an elastic compression bandage with hydrophilic foam in a single product to help NFL players perform and recover faster.

West Coast Turf

Trademark: #74544664

The sod company that installed a new 75,000 square foot field for the game. The blend of hybrid Bermuda 419 over-seeded with perennial rye was grown in Livingston, CA.

 Super Bowl Turf

Mouthguard with magnetic tethering         

US 8678010 B2 – The Wright Guard, Inc.

An update on the conventional tethering system strap design, The Wright Guard uses a metal/magnetic insertion to give players a more hygienic option to wedging their mouthguards behind their facemasks.


Note: Super Bowl is a registered trademark of the National Football League. All other brand names, product names, or trademarks belong to their respective holders. No endorsement or relationship is implied.

Challenges in Life Science Intellectual Property Management

There are few industries where the impact of IP management is as dramatic as it is in life science.

Pharmaceuticals, medical device manufacturing, bio-engineering and other science-based innovators live with billion dollar swings in valuations and revenues, depending on the status and success of their IP portfolios. The rise and “off-patent” revenue swoon of blockbuster products such as Lipitor, Plavix, Humira, Nexium and Crestor clearly illustrate the importance of getting IP right.


We recently spoke with the VP of Intellectual Property at one of our customers about his experience in the field, and what he does to get IP right. Due to the sensitive nature of his sector, we agreed not to identify him. He emphasized the importance of IP inside a life sciences company, and the particular challenges in an industry where your reward for success is frequently litigation. Life science IP management is clearly not a field for IP counsel with an aversion to stress.

Can you tell me about your company?


I work for the division of a large international company. Our head office is in the United States, and our parent company is overseas. We provide life science services and information.


Moving to the specifics of your role, can you give me some background?


Most of my previous experience had been as an outside patent attorney. I helped people get patents.


My colleagues and I never really thought that much about patent litigation. It was part of our law firm, of course, but there were others specialized in that. By moving in-house, patents started to mean much more beyond protecting inventions. I had to think about a whole range of activities, and even the use of patents just for doing business together. It was an interesting perspective change for me professionally. I hadn’t thought much, for example, about licensing.


Now, I have to evaluate joint venture opportunities where someone comes to us with a proposal to throw some of our technology into a pot, stir hard and do something gainful together. These are really fun intellectual exercises that focus a lot on contracts. That’s how I really honed my contract skills. I became a contract attorney when I went in-house for the first time and it’s been a big part of my professional life ever since.


Does your parent company have IP resources in the United States to help you?


They have some IP resources with whom I collaborate. Our parent company looks to me for IP strategy advice so I provide a lot of assistance, particularly related to our business interests outside their geographic base.


What internal resources do you have?


I currently don’t have any support staff reporting to me. Either I do the work myself or I work with outside counsel to do it for us. Our parent employs an IP group, which does some patent work, and we collaborate as needed. For example, I can use them to do patent research. Occasionally, business or market development projects will overlap, and I’ll be called on to provide IP expertise for contract negotiations, for example.


What are the IP strategy and objectives?


Like any company, IP strategy is part of an effort to advance the business goals of the company. Our inventions cover several areas, including hardware and software. My job is to protect all of it. I deal with IP matters, contracts, licensing and strategic collaboration opportunities involving our IP.


Let’s talk about the specific nature of life science IP management. What’s different about it?


There are a lot of things that make my IP life challenging and interesting:


First, I am the in-house attorney. What I really provide to the company is advice on how IP impacts the business. I have to understand the basics of the technology, otherwise I can’t be a very useful advisor to management.


I am constantly questioned about business impact. For example, how will the patents of our competitors affect our ability to do business in the US and Europe? I need to have a basic understanding of the technology as well as a basic understanding of the business because my advice is consumed by our business decision makers. I need to provide them with information that they can use. That’s the second challenge.


Third, life science is almost inherently global. I’m not concerned only with the patent law in the United States; I need to consider patent law in Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world. As a result, I have to learn a lot of languages.


I have to think about issues that are much broader than getting a patent allowed in the US Patent Office. I have to think about how IP can impact the ability of my company to do business and make money around the world.


How do you address those challenges?


This is where the PhD comes in handy. In other technology sectors, a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree might be sufficient for an IP counsel to understand and keep up. In biotech, it is common for IP attorneys to have a PhD. It’s both very helpful and valuable because we’re in a fast moving area of science.


A PhD bestows some credibility and helps you talk to the other PhD holders in your company. You are not going to know everything but you have to know something to be able to hold a reasonable conversation and understand the nuances of the technology.


Aren’t life science company founders generally PhDs themselves?


Yes, they often are. In our company we not only have biotech but also engineers and software people. I think more than a quarter of our people are PhDs. So in almost every corner of the company I run into another PhD in one subject or another.


Have you found any differences between timeline considerations and revenue priorities in life science compared to other industries?


Yes, the lead time before you make money in our industry tends to be very long. You have to take a very long view. In the software industry for example, you can create a product and begin to sell it almost immediately. 


The life cycle of our products is different. In biotech, for example, it can take years to develop one product. You have to take huge financial risks that last for many years before you will see the reward. We also operate in a very heavily regulated environment. We have to get approval by the FDA and other agencies in order to go to market. Talking to the FDA and similar bodies is a requirement.


Another potential consideration in life science is the role of personal information. If your business collects personal information, you need to be aware of the regulations that cover what you do with it and how you protect it.


What are the roles of infringement and litigation? Are they more common than in other industries?


I don’t know if they are more common, but certainly common enough to give us heartburn.

In the first presentation I gave to our parent company, I was asked to give a talk on IP strategy. One of the first things I told them – and it was shocking to many of them – was “if you are going to do business around the world, and you make money doing it, someone is going to sue you.”


The concept of an IP infringement lawsuit was not one with which they were familiar. I wanted everyone to understand that if we sold products and services in Europe and the USA, we were going to face lawsuits. This litigation risk was something they needed to think about as a business risk. I assumed we would be sued in Europe and the USA if we were successful.


That is just the cost of doing business in these places.


We have been sued twice in the United States by competitors. Part of it was related to IP infringement allegations and part of it was a business strategy to discourage investment in our stock. My advice is to focus on the business and don’t get distracted by the lawsuit, but understand how to factor this into financial planning and general business planning.


Let’s talk about your process and technology. What you are doing to ensure you’re making the most of a lean IP process.


When I started, we didn’t have a lot of systems in place to make my life easier. For a lot of patent-related documents and correspondence, I relied on my email inbox, folders, or tables, and Excel spreadsheets. This helped me get a snapshot of our IP portfolio, but there comes a point where it’s just not helpful anymore because it takes too much effort.


The volume can ultimately become overwhelming because you are dealing with too many different documents and files to really make that system workable. This is what happened.


Clearly, you didn’t have much technology. What was the tipping point?


We outgrew our ad hoc approach. We needed a much more organized and efficient system that connected us more quickly to information. The obvious solution was a software platform to handle both information and communication. Something where we, or outside counsel, could direct IP correspondence and IP-related documents, then provide mutual access and back-and-forth communication.


We also wanted to understand how our patent budget is spent, and improve patent department expense tracking. Finally, we wanted a platform to use both in the United States and in our parent company so the internal IP team there could improve coordination of IP planning and execution.


What did you prioritize as far as system functionality?


Our outside law firms handle our patent and trademark dockets, so docketing was not a requirement. We generated a feature set, and then looked for a system offering what we needed at a good price. We looked at a number of IP management service providers and selected IPfolio.


What made IPfolio stand out?


IPfolio had all the features we prioritized, the pricing fit our budget, and there are a lot of happy customers. IPfolio has a large user base in the Silicon Valley, and the feedback of my IP industry peers there was very helpful. It builds your confidence when the product under consideration clearly works for a large number of people at different stages in their implementation.


What was the implementation process?


We progressively transitioned from our old process to the new one. The first thing we did was to create folders for different patent files and then upload documents to those files. We added managers from our outside firms to handle a lot our backlog, which saved me a huge amount of time. Moving forward, when we create a new patent application or trademark, they can create a file in IPfolio and direct documents there.


The second step was to require our firms to include invoicing details so we could track our patent spend. I still haven’t really played very much with the financial analysis part of the software, so we’re still in the early stages.


When do you think you’ll be completely deployed?


By Q1 2016. The next step is launching our inventor portal and training our inventors about the simplicity and benefits of submitting invention disclosures within IPfolio. Part of the process is creating a workflow to manage disclosures, which I am currently doing. IPfolio has a lot of customers and a lot of “best practices” experience in many areas so Rupert and his team are a great resource to tap.


The IP of Santa’s Sleigh

The intellectual property of Claus: 9 inventions that make the flight of Santa’s Sleigh possible.

If you ever wondered how Santa gets it done, and wanted to explain it to kids, here’s the science and intellectual property behind the fame explained in original seasonal artwork. All the patents and IP innovation that help Team Rudolph: GPS-enabled route planning, aerodynamics, propulsion, nanotech composites, nutrition, and anti-friction lacquer for the sleigh runners.

IP of Santa's Sleigh-Digital

Please click here to have your own high resolution image of this original poster art.

Happy Holidays from everyone at IPfolio!


Santa’s Portly Patent Portfolio

Rapid-start Turbineless Jet engine

US 825085 SC: Rapid-start turbineless jet engine comprising fuel delivery and combustion, and airflow control.

Christmas Eve is all about take-offs and landings. Repeated over and over and over. A team of reindeer needs a helping hand so Santa adapted a solid fuel rocket patent, originally granted to Los Alamos National Laboratory, to provide Rudolph & Co. with a little jet propulsion.

Aerodynamic Body Fairings for Large Sleighs

US 710822 SC: The invention described here provides better aerodynamics for large sleighs in flight.

In Jan. 2011, three elves (magna cum laude grads in aeronautical engineering) slipped into Boeing Test & Evaluation’s wind tunnel for airflow testing. Adapting an invention originally designed for airplane wheel fairings, they reduced aerodynamic drag by 95% compared to the 1964 Rankin/Bass sleigh.

Self-Steering Apparatus for Sleighs

US 407851 SC: A self-steering device for sleighs that transmits pivotal movements to a reindeer harness.

Santa doesn’t ignore safety, even when digging into his sack to find the next gift. These hand-free moments require self steering. A self steering device for sailboats patented in 1975 provided the inspiration for one of the most important safety elements of Santa’s sleigh. Steering control is automatically transmitted to the reindeer harness, a necessity in crowded urban centers.

Wear-Resistant Anti-friction Lacquer for Runners

US 2012010318 SC: A coating comprising a phenolic resin and lubricant with an advantageous wear resistance and friction coefficient

Nippon Paint Company’s anti-friction technology for engine pistons inspired Elf Josefina Charvet to improve the wear resistance and friction coefficient of the sleigh runners. After clock making shifts in the Workshop, she spent evenings in Chem Lab #19. Six months later, she had perfected a new phenolic resin and lubricant coating, which was first used on Christmas Eve 2014

Carbon Fibre Nanotube Composite Material

EP 10444871 SC: The invention provides a carbon fiber nanotube composite material with excellent strength and impact resistance.

“The lighter the flight, the shorter the night.”

This message hangs on the wall of “Elven Aeronautics,” inspiring each generation of researchers striving to minimize the take-off weight of Santa’s sleigh. The latest generation of epoxy resin/carbon fiber/halloysite nanotube composite material reduced its unladen weight to 87kg.

Childrens’ Name-Based GPS Navigation System

EP 10444872 SC: The invention provides a carbon fiber nanotube composite material with excellent strength and impact resistance.

Big Data puts big smiles on kids’ faces. The advent of GPS navigation and route planning software makes it simple for Santa to plan and prioritize December 24. A 2014 patent for a delivery route system inspired Santa to upgrade his distribution planning process. Using the Lean Startup model, Santa bootstrapped product development to automate delivery based on a child’s annual behavior.

Reindeer Feed Additive

US 668276 SC: A reindeer feed additive containing 56% electrolytes, carrots and olive oil to increase time in flight.

The Bar-Tailed Godwit can fly over 10,000 km non-stop while migrating. Santa’s reindeer cover the latitude and longitude of the globe in one night. To improve their time-in-flight and speed over open water, Santa’s nutritional scientists created a reindeer feed additive, based on nutritional research funded by Heart-O-Dixie Animal Nutrition, which contains 56% electrolytes, carrots and olive oil.

Lighting System With Snow Melting Function

US 531141 SC: Lighting system combining lighting and heat-dissipating surfaces to counter snow and fog.

Upgrades in LED lighting technology since 1995 have helped Rudolph improve his confidence during inclement weather, such as snow and fog. Santa’s newest system combines lighting and heat-dissipating surfaces that prevent snow and ice from accumulating on the light-emitting window. The system was rigorously tested during the Polar Vortex of 2014-15, and certified as SantaSafe (TM).

Reindeer Harness for Take-Off and Landing

US 6513461 SC: A harness device for assisting reindeer to fly and land on a variety of surfaces, including roofs.

Santa lives a long way from the nearest farm, but an invention to help newborn livestock walk was the catalyst for a harness device first used in 2007. The harness helps reindeer with load distribution, and improves in-flight balance. Most importantly, it helps them land on a variety of surfaces, including the steep roofs so common in Western Europe

Managing a Lean IP Department at Deutsche Post DHL Group

Deutsche Post DHL Group is the world’s leading mail and logistics services Group, with annual revenues above USD65B, and 470,000 employees in 220 countries and territories.

Björn Ulmer has led* the IP/patent team as Director / Head of Corporate Patent Management over the past 3 years. Ulmer has an atypical background for an IP professional; He is an economist by background and arrived at Deutsche Post DHL from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) with an extensive business strategy resume. Approached to lead the Corporate Patent Management (CPM) team, he found the world of patents and IP fascinating and irresistible.

bjoern ulmer

Björn Ulmer, Former Director & Head of Corporate Patent Management at Deutsche Post DHL Group *

We spoke with Björn at the Global Patent Congress in Copenhagen about his experience revamping Deutsche Post DHL Group’s patent program, including the process of evaluating and implementing IPfolio.

What did you discover when you took over the Patent Management in 2012?

The patent program here had started in the early 2000s. My first project in 2012 was to develop and implement a new corporate patent strategy directly linked with our business strategy. As you would expect, the early months were filled with research and stakeholder meetings, many with Business Unit leaders and external peers. They clearly understood the need to prevent others from copying our innovations e.g. in automation and last mile delivery, and were enthusiastic about collaborating with us. Although they wanted us to manage everything, they also wanted to be able to look more actively into our portfolio and contribute their perspective.


Who do you work with?

I’m the head of the Corporate Patent Management (CPM). There are a handful of Patent Consultants inside a massive organization of almost 475,000. We have a little bit of a matrix structure, with key account leads for the group’s Divisions, and functional responsibilities like commercialization, licensing, analytics or inventor remuneration assigned to individuals within my team.


Do you draft and prosecute in-house at all?

No. Our technological fields are too broad, and our filing numbers aren’t big enough yet to justify building in-house expertise. So we outsource this part of the work to external counsels.


How many of your team are patent lawyers, then?

None of us are. We discovered that creating an impartial channel between inventors, patent lawyers, and product owners reduces potential interest conflicts. We work as internal Patent Consultants as the driver and bridge between everyone. This independence ensures objectivity when determining issues such as whether something is patentable, and if so, deciding if it is worth doing.


Can you tell us anything about your filing strategy?

Very broadly speaking, the decision-making process is focused on, and aligned with, our long-term corporate strategy. We have moved away from the “bottom-up” and more quantitative approach, to a “top-down” quality driven strategy, where we identify areas of strategic importance with the business owners and then actively scout and mine for patentable ideas related to those strategic areas.


What was the catalyst as far as choosing IPfolio?

When CPM was set up in the early 2000s, we implemented a traditional docketing system. But this was oversized for our organization and too complex for our internal patent consultants, as they just needed a small part of it. Therefore it was replaced by a highly customized system built on an Access database. Very efficient to our previous needs, but expensive to maintain and especially to update with new features.


At that point, it was 2013, I said, “We need something new. We need a modern standard tool. A small department like ours can not be that different, so we don’t need a custom-developed solution.” In the end it turned out that we are indeed a bit different.


We are different because we are a very big, global company with a relatively small and lean patent team. Look at the market for IP management solutions, and you will see that most of the systems are either designed for big companies with big patent portfolios and budgets, or for small companies with small portfolios. The “big” tools are oversized for us, and the “small” tools often lack the flexibility to deal with a complex corporate structure and decision-making processes like ours.


How did you research IP management solutions?

We really analyzed, I would say, most available tools on the market. We started first in Germany, then looked beyond. In the end, we identified and chose IPfolio.


Ultimately, we settled on IPfolio because it allowed us the flexibility that we needed, and it could be implemented and migrated very quickly. It was a win-win situation, where IT said “It’s great if you can get such a tool up and running so quickly, and we can reduce our efforts.”


In the spirit of the “lean” IP department, the software implementation was very lean as well. It was very cost-effective and needed few resources.


What are the results so far? What has changed since the roll-out?

IPfolio was easy to roll out, and I can produce reliable management reports, with the click of a button.


Global access means that our IP liaisons in the business units now have instant access to the patent portfolio, and inventors from all over the world can send their ideas to us for review.


Administration overhead has dropped. IPfolio is a very cost-effective system and delivers a steady flow of innovations to its standard product compared to our own development.


Other benefits we’ve already seen are improved internal processes and a better understanding of decision criteria and budget.


Overall, IPfolio is a very convenient way to manage a portfolio at a strategic level.


Thank you for your time Björn, and all the best for the future!


* Since this interview was conducted, Björn has left Deutsche Post DHL Group. He is now Managing Director at PatentSight GmbH, a provider of strategic patent portfolio analytics and consulting services.

Silicon Valley GCs focus on IP Management & Strategy

At the recent 27th Annual All Hands Meeting organized by the Silicon Valley Association of General Counsel (SVAGC), intellectual property matters were forefront, and particularly IP strategy, litigation and portfolio management.

Over three hundred counsel and representatives of the dynamic Silicon Valley technology community attended the conference, which also addressed pressing corporate regulatory, ecommerce, privacy, data transfer and data security issues.

The IP portfolio management strategy session was particularly well attended. Presenters recommended an analytic and holistic approach to the portfolio, which can then drive a related patent prosecution strategy.

The presentation began by using a matrix to assess the portfolio to determine a patent strategy. One dimension is business value: is the asset defensive, offensive, aimed at partnerships, driving portfolio growth, or filling portfolio gaps. Cross reference that to second axis of the level of technical advancement: is it revolutionary, evolutionary, an upgrade of older technology, an entire system or component of a system and how does it compare to key competitors’ portfolios.


Assets can be evaluated and ranked against this matrix. Strategic considerations include how you will use the patent, where and when do you need protection (timing) and which internal stakeholders need to be part of discussion. Vital is an analysis of the competitors products and IP. From this a visual map can be a powerful tool for determining strategy.

A freedom to operate (FTO) analysis involves identifying and analyzing the patents of others that may subject your company to patent-infringement liability.  Complex multi jurisdiction analysis and mapping is necessary, for which you need a clear picture of the portfolio, product families and status of IP rights. Given there are no unlimited resources, it is vital to focus on primary competitors and patent features without which the company cannot survive.


Fundamental to IP portfolio management is “filling gaps” in the range, the speakers used a visual to show the present product and IP portfolio. There are two dimensions, first can you fill the portfolio gaps internally by product development? The rate of internal innovation, the level of engineering expertise in specific fields, the bandwidth of engineering team, budget and timing should all be evaluated.

Second, should you fill the portfolio gaps via external sources? This might include patent acquisition, company acquisition, or acquiring exclusive licenses. Sometimes overlooked, the company must pare the existing portfolio to focus efforts and manage costs. Many inventions are overtaken and substitute products appear that eliminate the original business case.


The objective is to “right size” the portfolio to determine how many patents are enough. Bearing in mind what’s achievable, the rate of technological evolution in the field, the number and type competitors, types of patent needed and strengths of patents. IP budgets are never unlimited, so business and technical leaders must constantly evaluate risks and prioritize.  This requires evaluating risks of reducing areas of focus and the number of patents and number of foreign filings.

Additionally, portfolio management and patent litigation strategy must build in flexibility to be agile in face of constant changes in the law, funding, the market and technology evolution.

Overall, intelligent portfolio management must answer the question “why are we making these investments?” Portfolio management must reflect and to some degree influence business goals. The portfolio should allow intelligent resource management. In the end, the company’s business and technical leaders must understand the current portfolio, strategy, and commitments.

All of the above requires a robust tool portfolio management tools that allows you to track assets, report, schedule, visualize and budget.

All illustrations are from the presentation materials, with friendly permission from of Kevin McLintock at Logitech and Craig Largent at Kilpatrick Townsend.