Can Patent Holders be Olympians As Well?

Well, the Summer Olympics are almost upon us (set to begin in Paris on Friday, July 26) and that got me thinking. Technology plays an important part in sports, such as with the development of sport equipment, gear and clothing. Many aspects of this equipment, gear and clothing may be patented, and thus there is a connection between the Olympics and patents. However, what about a connection between Olympians and patents? Put another way, has any Olympian also been a patent holder? 

The short answer is yes, but uncovering them took some effort (and this list cannot be considered all-inclusive). I was able to uncover three Olympians/patent holders. Meet Narve Bonna, Ted Ligety and Jimmy LuValle:

Narve Bonna – Skier

In the first Winter Olympics of 1924, there was Narve Bonna, a ski jumper for the Norwegian team. He and teammate Tullin Thams developed a new style of ski jumping called the “aerodynamic” technique, which increased the distance that could be jumped compared to conventional techniques. Bonna and Thams used this improved technique to win gold and silver medals at the Games. After the Olympics, Bonna went to work in the manufacture of skis. He later started his own factory and improved the ski design by incorporating fiberglass in the construction. Bonna went on to obtain several ski-related patents in Europe and the U.S., with the designs becoming known as the famous Bonna skis.

Ted Ligety – Skier

Ted Ligety, an alpine ski racer for the United States team, designed goggles for the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia. One of Ligety’s patents focused on goggles featuring a wide-screen double lens with air-permeable filters to reduce warping.

Jimmy LuValle – Track

Jimmy LuValle, a sprinter on the United States track team at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany won bronze in the 400 meter race, and is reported to have held multiple patents. Besides a track star, LuValle earned a master’s degree in chemistry and physics from UCLA and was the first African American to earn a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology. Several buildings on the UCLA campus have also been dedicated to LuValle.

  • Natalie D. Kadievitch

    Natalie is a resident shareholder practicing in the area of intellectual property law with an emphasis in patent prosecution and client counseling. Natalie is a registered patent attorney and focuses her practice in the areas of ...

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