Patents + football = Summer time at our offices

In Insights, Uncategorized

5 June, 2008

On Saturday, the opening game of the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship, commonly referred to as UEFA EURO 2008TM, will be played between the host Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

At an afterwork recently, I discussed with some patent attorney friends how many goals would be controversial this summer. We all remember the classic English goal in the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final. In the final between the host England and West Germany and with eleven minutes of extra time gone, Alan Ball put in a cross and Geoff Hurst shot from close range, hit the underside of the cross bar, bounced down – apparently on or just over the line – and was cleared. The referee was uncertain if Hurst had scored and consulted his linesman from the USSR, who indicated that he did. After some non-verbal communication (they had no common language…), the referee awarded the goal to the English team. Whether the ball crossed the goal line or not has been a matter of discussion ever since, and the controversial call has become part of World Cup history.

Historically, the referees of a football match decide from visual observation whether or not the ball has passed the goal line. However, as evidenced by the match in 1966 it may be very difficult to determine correctly in situations where the ball is returned quickly and has only just passed, or not passed, the goal line. Therefore, when returning to the office the next day I simply had to perform a ‘quick and dirty’ novelty search at www.espacenet.com to see if someone clever had thought about this problem. Not surprisingly, there are in fact quite some technical solutions (some better than others) out there to overcome situations like that in 1966. Just to list a few patents/patent applications in the field of “detecting with improved precision whether a football has passed a goal line or not”:

WO 2004/076003 A1 ”GOAL DETECTOR FOR DETECTION OF AN OBJECT PASSING A GOAL PLANE”

WO2006094508 A1 ”GOAL DETECTOR FOR DETECTION OF AN OBJECT PASSING A GOAL PLANE”

US2006/0135297 A1 “Goal detection equipment for football”

GB 2 342 050 A “Goal posts”

WO 95/32774 “GOAL-DETECTION DEVICE FOR BALL GAMES”

Neither of the above-listed ‘techniques’ will, however, be put into practice in this summer’s UEFA EURO 2008TM tournament, so the question remains: how many goals will be incorrectly awarded this summer?

Personally, I predict that 72 goals (2.32 goals per match) will be scored in total in Austria/Switzerland this summer and of the 72 goals, let’s say, 3 goals (0.1 goals per match) will be incorrectly awarded (if so, hopefully in favor of Sweden).

What do you think?

Christian Arkelius, Patent Attorney

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