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| 3 minutes read

Patenting football: M&C + the beautiful game

In 1887, engineer George Croydon Marks set up a firm in Birmingham, specialising in intellectual property. The following year he was joined by Scotsman Dugald Clerk, inventor of the two-stroke engine, and together they formed a partnership that is still going strong, 137 years on.

1888 saw the beginning of another organisation that has its origins in Birmingham - the English Football League. The EFL was founded by William McGregor, director of Aston Villa Football Club. Although football (or foot-ball, as it was known then) had been around since at least the 1400s, there is no doubt that the formation of the EFL increased the sport's popularity and created an environment where innovation flourished.

And as you might expect, Marks & Clerk has been supporting this innovation ever since, by helping inventors and designers around the globe protect their intellectual property via patents, designs and trade marks. 

The following are just a view examples of the huge variety of patents filed and/or prosecuted over the years by Marks & Clerk, all inspired at least in part by the beautiful game of football.

In 1927, Paul Drohnn of Germany put his mind to creating a “practically seamless” football, formed in a similar way to plywood. Unlike previous balls, this football was designed to retain its shape during play. Marks & Clerk filed GB patent application GB295336A for him and this was accepted in 1929.

A rubber surfacing mixture, suitable for sports grounds and football pitches, was the subject of patent GB436509 obtained in 1935 by Marks & Clerk for Franklin Henry Lushington of Passara Group, in what was then Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

In 1947, Fernand Surdez of Switzerland asked Marks & Clerk to file a GB patent application covering his football counter, which enables a referee, for example, to keep track of goals, corners, fouls and off-sides for both the local side and the visiting team.

Yorkshire firm Fred Hurtley & Son Ltd designed this improved football top in 1960, intended to “provide a sports jersey which is stronger than the conventional garment” and less likely split at the seams where the arms join the body - in this case, the arms and shoulders are formed in one piece. Marks & Clerk filed patent application GB903121 on the firm's behalf.

In 1966, the year England won the World Cup, William Boseley and William Coles, both of Northampton, obtained a patent (GB1078144) via Marks & Clerk for an improved football boot intended to “reduce the likelihood of injury” and “make the wearer more sure-footed”.

This training device for football was invented by Frenchman Remy Torres in 1977, and enables “a sportsman to work seriously without wasting time and tiring himself to no avail by running needlessly after the ball”.  A patent application GB1600420 was filed by Marks & Clerk's Manchester office.

And finally, patent GB2429933 was obtained by Marks & Clerk London for US inventors Lee and Michael Brody and David Marini in 2008 for their therapeutic sports towel, suitable for footballers and other athletes, which doubles as a stretching exercise device and even has a compartment for ice.

Since its inception way back in 1887, there is no field of technology that has not been protected with patents filed by Marks & Clerk, and with offices in the UK, Singapore, Canada, China, Malaysia and Luxembourg, we remain ideally placed to advise start-ups, SMEs and corporates wherever they are based - and whatever team they might support.

Love football? Why not find out how The Unified Patent Court saved the Euros 2024?

#football #sportstech #sportspatents #itscominghome #patents #innovation


sport, football, itscominghome, sportstech, creative industries, designs, patents, mechanical engineering, yes