Who Wins in the Smart Basketball Rivalry? (Hint: Count The Patents)

Anytime new tech is announced, it is always followed by a flood of companies trying to capitalize on the associated market. With the introduction of “smart basketballs,” three companies have made themselves known as both leaders in the market and patent space, and the competition between the three is heating up.

ShotTracker, SportIQ, and Wilson Sporting Goods all offer basketballs with embedded sensors to track data throughout basketball games and practices. While each option has differences in capabilities and system design, the basis of the technology is similar with the end goal of being able to determine made and missed shots as well as a player’s location on the court. While each has its pros and cons, it is difficult to tell which company will rise to the top of the market and have its product implemented in basketball leagues across the world, but the patents might give some insight on who has the advantage.

In the U.S. market, ShotTracker has taken an early lead signing multi-year contracts with multiple NCAA conferences, such as the Big 12 and the Mountain West conference, which led to them raising $13 million in its last funding round. The patents tell a different story. As mentioned in a previous insight, SportIQ files its patents under a holding company, Sstatzz Oy. ShotTracker takes a similar strategy by filing both under its name and its parent company DDSports. When comparing the portfolios, it becomes clear that SportIQ hosts both broader and more expansive patent assets than both ShotTracker and Wilson with a total of twenty-six (26) patents and applications throughout four subcategories to ShotTracker and Wilson’s twelve (12), giving them a large advantage on the long-term market.

While it may seem like Wilson is falling behind, its activity in the Patent Forecast shows it may be doing this on purpose. Wilson’s most recent application was filed all the way back in mid-2014 when it filed the rest of its applications. Since then it has remained active in the market, but not the patent space. Considering this and the higher capital of a company as large as Wilson, it could be possible that Wilson is implementing a buy strategy instead of a build and maybe waiting to see which technology pulls ahead before purchasing/partnering with one of the other two companies in the space.

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