Ace IP – Innovations of Wimbledon

By Luke Jones, Attorney

The Championships, Wimbledon, more commonly known as “Wimbledon” is one of the sporting calendar’s most anticipated events. This year’s tournament is well into the swing of things and has already brought up some major shocks and talking points. 15 year-old sensation Coco Gauff announced herself to the tennis world by defeating all-time great Venus Williams in the first round. This year’s tournament also saw the paring of two of Tennis’ superstars with Andy Murray and Serena Williams joining forces in the mixed doubles.

Wimbledon and the game of tennis itself has changed dramatically since the inception of the first tournament at the All England Club in 1877. Behind the dramatic changes have been a number of advancements, and innovators have continued to look to the world of IP to protect such achievements.

Tennis rackets, have seen many changes since the use of wooden rackets in the early days of the game. A particularly crucial innovation was that of US company Prince, who first developed a tennis racket with an oversized racket head (US3999756) in 1976. The increased size of the head provided greater power and accuracy for any shot. This innovation combined with increased availability of light and strong materials such as graphite and aluminium, soon led to all professional players adopting the oversized racket head we’re all familiar with today.

The recognisable bright yellow tennis ball was first developed in 1972 and this colour has remained the same to the present day. However, despite the longevity of the colour of the ball, sports manufactures are continuing to find ways to improve the structure and performance of the tennis ball. Wilson Sporting Goods filed US2018/0264327 in 2017, which discloses a tennis ball with “customizable performance characteristics”, whilst “reducing or eliminating any changes to the weight, feel, sound of impact and other characteristics of the tennis ball”. The disclosed ball has a customisable coefficient of restitution (COR), which can control how fast and how high a ball bounces off of a surface. This could lead to some interesting ball designs where a particular ball may be more suited for one player’s playing style than another’s.

Perhaps more than any other sport, tennis has also had a huge impact on the world of fashion. Until Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win in 2013, Fred Perry was the last British winner of the men’s title in 1936. However, today his name is perhaps more widely known due to the iconic Fred Perry clothing brand, which he started in 1952. Today Fred Perry produce clothing and accessories of many varieties, however the company still hold UK trade mark UK00000738300, which was filed in 1955 in class 25 specifically for articles of sports clothing. Many tennis players have since followed suit with Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Roger Federer all pinning their names to clothing lines and using trademarks to protect their brands.