The long awaited football season is upon us. Whether you’re watching your team from your couch or playing your own game, Suiter Swantz IP wants to kick-off the football season by showcasing some of the most historic patents from America’s most-watched sport.

While this year’s football season looks a bit different, the historic game remains the same. However, football has seen many changes since it’s creation, and intellectual property rights have played a significant role in influencing those improvements. Read on below to learn more about the classic patents that have helped football become the sport it is today.

1. Helmet

Legend has it that the first football helmet was made out of moleskin by a local shoemaker at the request of a U.S. Naval Academy player whom doctors had warned might suffer “instant insanity” if he took another hit to the head. Thankfully, helmets have come a long way since, and their importance has garnered significant attention in recent years. The helmet design, U.S. Patent No. 2,293,308, is an early predecessor to the one fans are familiar with today. Innovations like extra padding, face guards, visors, and even a coach-to-player radio system continue to shape helmet design in the 21st century.

Football Patents

2. Ten Yard Line 

Sideline officials have long used a 10-yard length of chain to measure if a team has advanced the ball far enough to earn a first down, and we have patents like U.S. 1,684,566 to thank for it. Moses H. Winkler’s 1927 invention of the Ten Yard Line was one of the earliest devices patented for such use. Winkler hoped his invention would prevent what he called “ugly situations” from arising over disputed calls from the officials.

3. Football Uniform Pants 

Over the years, football players have worn a variety of different pants. This pair, created by William P. Whitley and Robert C. Zuppke were designed to protect a player’s body by inserting padding. While they weren’t considered the most stylish, they have helped paved the way in helping protect players.

4. Detachable Streamers 

For those who prefer a safer alternative to tackle football, flag or touch football are also fan favorites. Although flag-football was invented long before 1960s, U.S Patent No. 3,063,718 is one of the many innovations that helped improved the game. In 1962, Frederick E. Steinkamp recognized that playing touch football was difficult because there was no way to determine whether a touch had been made or not. . Steinkamp’s invention created a belt with two flags attached with a material similar to Velcro® on each side. These detachable streamers are still used widely today by youth and adult flag-football teams.

5. Foldable Stadium Chair

As any seasoned football spectator knows, bringing your own foldable chair is a must in preventing sitting uncomfortably in the stadium bleachers. In 1961, Francis H. Chute invented the “foldable stadium chair” to add some some comfort when watching football.  Chute’s chair could be secured to any stadium bench seating, allowing many to enjoy sporting events comfortably.  Foldable stadium chairs have come a long way since Chute’s invention, and have become an important accessory for any sporting event.


No matter what team you choose to root for this season, it’s clear that innovation continues to improve the sport we know and love. From the player’s uniforms to the devices used during the game, these inventions and designers have helped make the game what it is.

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