Anyone for Omnium?
As with the road cycling competition, expectations are high that Team GB will be topping the track cycling medal table come the end of this summer’s Olympics. And why not? At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Team GB won gold in seven of the ten track cycling events with Scotland’s Sir Chris Hoy becoming the most successful male Olympic cyclist of all time.
Ever since Pierre Lallement filed the first one for a pedal-driven bicycle in November 1866, patents have remained the key legal method of protecting bicycle technology.
At London 2012 there will be five distinct cycling track events including the Sprint (where two riders start at the same point and the first across the line after three laps is the winner), Keirin (where up to seven riders compete behind a motorcycle which sets the pace – the motorcycle will usually leave the race with around 600-700m to go leaving competitors to sprint it out to the finish line) and the Omnium (a new event for the Olympic where individual competitors collect points over 6 different races including flying lap, individual pursuit and time trial – think a decathlon-type event for cycling).
Protecting an idea
Sir Chris Hoy is not the only Scotsman to have had worldwide success in track cycling.
“The Flying Scotsman” Graeme Obree was the 4000m world track cycling champion in 1993 and 1995 and held the world hour record on two separate occasions. His records on the track are all the more impressive when you consider that they were achieved on a bike, nicknamed the “Old Faithful”, which he had designed himself and which included, amongst other parts, bearings from a washing machine.
Ever since Pierre Lallement filed the first one for a pedal-driven bicycle in November 1866, patents have remained the key legal method of protecting bicycle technology. Shimano Inc, the Japanese manufacturer which produces 50% of the world’s cycling components, holds 1035 US patents relating to cycling.
In order to secure patent protection a cycling related invention would require to be new, not seen before, involve an inventive step and not be obvious to someone with a good knowledge of existing cycling technology. Inventors must take steps to ensure their inventions don’t become public knowledge before seeking patent protection, meaning that test riding or racing a novel bike design in public could preclude the possibility of patent protection.
The visual appearance of a bike and its components can also be protected in the UK as a “registered design”. For instance, the frame and seat of Raleigh’s original iconic “Chopper” design were both protected as registered designs (and marked as such on the bike frame), giving Raleigh the right to prevent third parties from copying the visual appearance of those designs. “Chopper” is also a registered trade mark of Raleigh UK Limited, meaning that it can prevent third parties from selling cycling related products under the same or a confusingly similar name.
So if like Graeme Obree you have designed a bicycle (or even just a part for a bicycle) which is innovative and ground breaking, think long and hard about patent protection before launching your product. It may just be the most important decision you make.