Eric Sosenko has run the numbers and identified the world’s most patented sport: golf. Not football, not baseball, not curling. That’s right. The sport in which athletes ride around in fun little four-wheelers with cocktails in the cup holders.
Sosenko, a patent partner in the Ann Arbor, Mich., office of Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, got the notion to figure out which was the world’s most patented sport in July, as the U.S. Senior Open was set to start in nearby Lake Orion. His firm focuses on intellectual property, and Sosenko spends most of his time prosecuting patents, especially those related to the automotive industry.
The National Law Journal spoke with Sosenko about his golf stats and other pressing patent matters. His answers were edited for brevity and clarity.
NLJ: How many patents does the game of golf have?
Sosenko: It might surprise you. Just under 27,000.
NLJ: That’s a lot. What’s the second most patented sport?
Sosenko: Baseball, with about 5,000 patents. Football has about 3,000.
NLJ: Why golf? What’s so patentable about golf?
Sosenko: I think it has to do with tinkering. Golf is a tinkerer’s kind of sport. You can do it and not be very good at it and do it the rest of your life. If a sport becomes a spectator sport, you have fewer patents.
NLJ: And people who develop patents are tinkerers?
Sosenko: I think so. Some of them are.
NLJ: What’s the most patented part of golf?
Sosenko: Golf balls. The dimples are there for a reason. The shape and dimple pattern control the rotation. There are an infinite number of ways to manipulate those dimples.
NLJ: What about the insides? Isn’t it just a ball of rubber bands?
Sosenko: They used to be, but now there are patents for a number of layers and the core.
NLJ: How did you determine the numbers?
Sosenko: I searched the Patent and Trademark Office using key words “golf” and “golfing.”
NLJ: What are some of the quirkier golf patents?
Sosenko: I’ve always told people that if you want to play better, don’t drink beer on the golf course, but there’s a patent for a golf club bag that actually has a cooler in the bottom. There’s also one for a golf hat with blinders on it.
NLJ: Do you golf?
Sosenko: Oh, sometimes. I used to golf more than I do now. I have three kids.
The NLJ: What’s your handicap?
NLJ: I have no idea what that question means, by the way.
Sosenko: I’m a very average golfer.
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