College Football Playoffs Patented?!?; Mark Cuban Warned Not To Infringe

from the patent-madness dept

For years, fans of college football have been clamoring for some sort of playoff system, rather than the messy rankings and bowl system that currently exists. It's a topic that people can get pretty passionate about. Even President Obama has weighed in on the subject arguing for a playoff system. I'm not a college football fan, so I don't really care one way or the other what happens, but there is a little tidbit in the latest discussion that I find interesting. Jarrett Streebin alerts us to the news that Mark Cuban is pushing hard to create a college football playoff system, which normally wouldn't be of that much interest to folks around here, except in Cuban's blog post about the topic, he posts an anonymous email from someone who claims to hold a patent on a football playoff system. Here's an excerpt from the email that Cuban posted:
My advise is, don't waste your money. There are three perfected alternatives to the BCS. I own one, a guy with CBS owns another and a guy in Arizona owns the third. By that, I don't mean the screw-ball ideas you see on the internet, but actual branded properties.

[... a bunch of stuff skipped, some by me, and some by Cuban ...]

You should also consider that the playoffs are already owned by someone, as in, the patent for resolving the FBS championship by way of a playoff was issued long ago. It's called a method patent, so be careful not to infringe it.

Anyway, if you want to know who owns assets in this field, let me know. I can put you in touch with one of my attorneys who can let you know what you're in for. It's much more complex that it's commonly understood to be.
Ownership of a sporting playoff system? Seriously, USPTO? Cuban uses this as an opportunity to point out the ridiculousness of patents and how they're abused by people "who have no intention of solving a problem or building a business but want to get paid by those that do." It's a nice little rant, but no different than what you've probably read here on Techdirt a hundred times.

What interested me was this idea that the concept of college football playoffs could be patented. It looks like, from the email, that the guy did not reveal the patent. If anyone knows what it is, please share. I went looking myself, and have found two possibilities -- one an issued patent, and another that's still in the application stage.

The issued patent (6,053,823 -- full patent embedded below) is held by Marc Mathews and was issued in 2000. The patent indicates that Mathews lives in Arizona, so he's likely to be "the third guy" mentioned above. The patent application (application #11/327,584 -- full application embedded below) was filed by three guys: Edward Baxter Williams, Tyler James Williams and Edgar Richard Williams Jr., all from New Hampshire. Perhaps one of them emailed Cuban. That patent application is especially odd, as it looks as though the "abstract" is for something entirely different. The application is supposedly for "a flex schedule playoff system" and the claims definitely discuss that -- but the abstract appears to be for "a protective fender is provided for use on a pontoon boat." Not quite who screwed up there, but someone clearly did.

Either way, if you wanted to see how one might go around patenting the concept of a football playoff system, go ahead and dig into the patents. I'm just going to sit back and wonder what the USPTO was thinking when it approved that first one.


Filed Under: college football, football, mark cuban, ncaa, patents, playoffs


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  1. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), 23 Dec 2010 @ 11:09am

    Talk about Prior art ....

    Pontoon boat fender Patent #6951181
    . One thing I do not get is how the pontoon boat patent was granted in Oct 2005, when the above patent was granted in April 2000 and it was so obviously copied.

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