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Intellectual Property for a new sport

Eugene, OR |

Can I patent (have intellectual property) for a new sport - water pollo played with the legs instead of the hands ? Thank you.

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Attorney answers 5


Water pollo--water chicken? Oh, water polo. Really you cannot patent an idea, which is what you have. Nor can you copyright it or trademark it.

What you can do is to write a complete set of rules with diagrams, etc., print it and sell it. And register a copy with as soon as or even before you actually make it public. Costs 35 bucks and you do not need a lawyer. I would also dream up a name, working with both a marketing person and a TM lawyer like me to brand the game with your mark so no one else can come up with a competing set of rules and call it the same game.

I would be happy to chat by phone about all this free and I am in your time zone, in Beaverton.

Licensed in Maryland with offices in Maryland and Oregon. Information here is general, does not create a lawyer-client relationship, and is not a substitute for consulting with an experienced attorney on the specifics of your situation.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick


This is potentially patentable, depending on the implementation. The Asker did not say it was just an idea. The Asker may have it all fleshed out in an enabling manner sufficient for patent application. Or it might be a done as a video game and, jointly with a programmer, should be patentable subject matter. Copyrights and trademarks might also apply to it, as you noted. I disagree this Asker does not need an attorney when doing a copyright application on this for $35, as the copyright application might cost valuable patent rights by publishing the rules at the Library of Congress for all to see.


Possibly, if you have a new, useful and non-obvious method of playing a water sports game. It would not, of course, be water polo if it was played with the legs. You would perhaps patent the method of play, although I doubt that just using legs rather than hands and arms would be considered unobvious. Perhaps it is unobvious as it would definitely complicate breathing to have feet above the surface, unless there was some body flotation device or unless this was to be done in a very shallow pool using a weighted non-floating ball and underwater net, all of which might lend to something patentable. Whatever your concept, you don't want to spread it out here for all to read, but want to get to a registered patent attorney in confidence to get it protected. That is especially important in this new "first to file" world. This leg water polo concept, to me, uwould seem to comply with 35 USC 101 but you would have to comply with enablement, best mode (although that is quite weak as a doctrine at the moment), and written description requirements.

You might copyright the original expression of the rules once fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as written on paper or computer. However, changing rules might allow someone to avoid infringement. So copyright protection could be marginally effective.

If you have a distinctive brand name for this, [POLEGO], you might be able to file a 1(b) application and then market that brand name. They key would be to get this out and adopted before someone else copied using a different name, so that your brand is the one people know.

In the meantime you would want to keep it under raps so you have trade secrecy protection and try to keep it that way during initial discussions. To know if this is marketable, you will need to run this by some prospective sponsoring agency such as a soccer league, and they will likely send you packing if you insist on a secrecy agreement.

I fail to see how this could ever make money unless it were a video game rather than a real sport. All things are, of course possible with virtual reality, and it might be quite hilarious to have an upside down water polo game

So, you need to see a registered patent attorney who also specializes in startups. There are very few of us. Attorney Mike Neustel in Fargo ND is one I could recommend to you.

Watch out to avoid InventHelp, Davisons and other promoters of that ilk, so you don't get fleeced. See the link below on how to avoid getting scammed.

I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.


For obvious reasons you should not disclose here what you have invented. I assume water polo is just figurative speech. In principle a new, not -obvious, game is patentable. The questions is what is the game, and what if anything is not obvious. There is no way any of the contributors to this site can answer your question without getting into the details and jeopardizing confidentiality. If you are interested, any Registered Patent Attorney, can take a good look and your invention and tell you whether it is patentable or not.
Good luck.

USPTO Registered Patent Attorney, Master of Intellectual Property law, MBA I am neither your attorney, nor my answers or comments in create an attorney-client relationship with you. You may accept or disregard my free advice in at your own risk. I am a Patent Attorney, admitted to the USPTO and to the Florida Bar.


A patent in the U.S. can be obtained on a new invention that is unique and novel and that does not eist in the prior art, provided that the invention has not been published more than one year. You should conduct some prior art researhc to determine if anyone has ever played this game, so as to determine whether it is truly new, or whether it exists in the prior art.

The foregoing answer represents general information only and does not constitute legal advice. Further, no attorney-client relationship exists as a result of reading or relying on the foregoing answer. You should seek sound legal advice from a competent IP lawyer.


Great question. I would rephrase it so that you could get more meaningful advice. Can you obtain intellectual property protection for a new game or sport? The answer is yes, but with severe limitations. You can obtain a patent for a new sport or game, but the game must be novel and non-obvious. In order to investigate whether your proposed sport is novel and non-obvious, you would need to retain counsel to conduct a patent clearance analysis. In this case, I am virtually certain that most lawyers would conclude that water polo played with legs is neither novel nor non-obvious. Thus, I doubt you will get a patent on the game, but I have been wrong many times before and, therefore, you may wish to have a formal patent clearance analysis conducted before you drop the idea of patent protection.

You might also try to protect this new sport using copyright law. You could write a detailed paper or book setting forth the rules of the sport, and file for copyright protection. But the protection you would get is quite limited. Copyright does not protect ideas (such as specific rules); copyright law protects only the rules in the specific form in which they are "fixed in a tangible medium of expression." Thus, no one could make copies of your rule book and provide it for others. But if the rules could be learned by watching people play the game, copyright law would not prevent others from using the rules and writing them down in their own original written expression. Thus, copyright law will not protect you very much. In this regard, the scope of copyright protection is limited by the First Amendment (as embodied in the concept of "fair use"). It probably would violate the First Amendment to allow copyright law to prohibit independent dissemination of the rules of this new sport, where the rules are identified by observation rather than by copying the official rule book.

The most promising mode of protection would be trademark law. You probably could successfully organize a major leg-only water polo league, come up with a clever name and logo, and then file for trademark registration for the name and logo . While you couldn't stop someone else from forming a competing league to play the same sport, you could stop others from confusing the public by using your league's trademarks to promote their league. Clever use of trademark and copyright protection, and various related tactics, have enabled the major leagues in the major sports to fend off the occasional efforts to build competing major leagues. For example, the USFL was organized a few years ago by Donald Trump and others to compete with the NFL, but the NFL fought back using its trademark and copyright protections as important assets to avoid consumer confusion between the "authentic" league and its imposter competitor.

The bottom line is this--our intellectual property laws generally do not protect mere ideas (water polo played with the legs). But that doesn't mean that you can't launch and brand your new sport successfully by utilizing intellectual property laws. If you want to pursue the commercialization of this new sport, you need to retain intellectual property counsel to develop an effective strategy for "branding" your new sport so that consumers will not be confused between the real deal and some fly by night competitor. The process of developing, branding and commercializing an entirely new sport will require rather sophisticated input from intellectual property and business counsel--but it is a process that could be quite successful.