The 2014 World Cup which is more popular than the Olympic as the world's largest sporting event now, will just kick off on June 12 in Brazil. The opening game between Brazil and Croatia on June 12, Brazil will receive worldwide attention and be filled with feverish excitement for a month to the final game on July 13.
The soccer (or football) player's brightly colored uniform, footwear, and spike in particular fascinated supporter and have great significance because of that technologies of such as the composition or internal structure can control the game, not to mention flashy design.
For example "Adidas Predator Instinct HG WC" that players will wear, Mesut Özil who is of German national team has advanced technical capabilities of left foot and his kicks are accurate, Xavier Hernández who is the playmaker of the Spanish national team as the defending champion has varied pass combination, and Hiroshi Kiyotake who is of Japanese national team, the rubber of which makes the power of spin to make full use of the performance of trap, dribbling, or crossing precision or power of shoot, the gel pad is built in the inside of which supports players due to a high cushioning performance for the correct pass, and the controlled flame parts equipped with the outsole of which contribute to make the power of gripping for the accuracy of the ball control by the sole of the foot.
We try to visualize the technological capability states of worldwide leading manufacturers of foot wears or spikes at the world cup by the analysis method applying to Japan, America and Europe.
This column especially focused on the 3 brands wearing many top players as participate the world cup, “Adidas” (German), “Nike” (America) and “Mizuno” (Japan).
Adidas, Mizuno follows Nike, the strong in Japan
1441 patents related to football shoes or spikes filed with the Japan Patent Office (JPO) from around the world, as a population, strengths and weaknesses of them are scored by statistically numeric conversion method, and each of them are calculated the patent score and the duration of the validity (the term of the patent). Figure1 and 2 are graphs of them.
Accordingly, the possessed technologies (the size of circle) Mizuno took the first place of which, but considering such as remaining patent years, Nike is top totally and Adidas has total power equivalent to Mizuno.
Puma is quite low position even though it’s patents number is same as Nike. However, patents number of Nike is about a quarter of Mizuno, 10.39 years of Nike is overwhelmingly longer than 1.75 years of Mizuno in average number of remaining patent years of advanced technology group (this group has superior score than this population). This shows Nike holds many recent advanced patens. In addition, Figure2 shows the result of analysis in view of the importance of each technology and the ratio of important technology of each company. (Each technology was scored by remaining patent years and the influence of exclusion to competitive technologies, and the number of high scored technologies was rebated by whole technologies of the company. The “excellent” technologies constitute a high proportion as it goes upward of this figure.)
It appears to that Nike expands its superiority, Adidas is following Nike, and Mizuno is separated largely from them.
Nike and Adidas are standing out in the United States
Next, here is the analysis of US patents. Like previously mentioned JP analysis, 2336 patents related to football shoes or spikes filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) from around the world were extracted and analyzed them as a population, then we obtained data of Figure3 and 4.
Figure3 shows Nike has overwhelming advantage of the number of patents and the total ability, and Adidas is catching up Nike. Mizuno has very few US patents though superior in JP, so it’s difficult to say the key player in US.
On the other hand, Figure4 shows a high level of performance of Adidas hold Nike in check. And Mizuno, inconspicuous in total ability, is dominating than Nike. It is suggested that including low scored technologies due to the number of patent applications of Nike is overwhelmingly numerous, as a result, this applications can’t be said that is composed of excellent technologies.
Adidas is overwheligly strong in Europe
At last, how about Europe? 785 patents related to football shoes or spikes filed with the European Patent Office (EPO) from around the world were extracted and analyzed like above, then we obtained data of Figure5 and 6.
Figure5 shows total ability of Adidas overwhelmingly predominant, so leave Nike almost twice as large as the number of applications of which far behind.
This positional relationship is remained unchanged in Figure6 relating to the excellence or future of technology, consequently, it can give a strong impression that the advantage of Adidas in Europe.
But, we should take notice of just one point; average number of remaining patent years or the same of advanced technology group of EU patents are less than 3 years, quite shorter than JP patents or US patents. It is suggested that both Adidas and Nike are not concentrating on patent authorization in Europe much or have the possibility to focus on the other area strategically.
A point of view of the future plan, the average number of remaining patent years of advanced technology group has a significant meaning.
The strength of Adidas; development of “Smart sports”
Thus, we overlook trilateral analyses of JP-US-EU, the technical advantage of Adidas has emerged. Adidas' key product groups are foot wear represented by shoes, apparel such as sportswear, and hardware such as accessories including the wearable sensor "MiCoach" series focus on sports for training. It should be specially mentioned that this series proposed "Smart sports", which the sensor formulate strategies by the analysis of speed, rhythm, momentum, consumed calorie, and so on.
Adidas, who has pioneered a field in smart sports based on US patent of integrated biological information sensor using multiple parameters monitoring system filed in 2003.
In this patent analysis, technologies related to smart sports were often found in high-scored patents of Adidas. (Such as EU patent EP1457128 B1 "Intelligent footwear and method for modifying a performance characteristic of an article of footwear”)
Adidas said "we are creating with Smart Football through our miCoach platform..." in their Half Year Report 2012, so we think one of the sources of superiority of Adidas is these business development adopted such as leading‐edge technologies.
Adidas is the official sponsor of the World Cup, and top players of national members of each country, Messi, Suárez, van Persie, Özil, Xavi and Lampard, recognize and contract the license agreement, so, it can be said that the strength of Adidas is insatiable effort to latest technologies.
On the other hand, Nike has noteworthy technology.
The uniquely-shaped spikes of Nike
Recently, someone watching soccer games may aware of that C. Ronaldo who is of Portugal national team plays as a member of Real Madrid and Nagatomo who is of Japanese national team plays as a member of Internazionale (Inter Milan) are wearing "the unique shape spike shoes covering to the ankle".
It's called "Soccer shoes (Nike Mercurial Superfly IV)", adopting "Flyknit" material and characterized by the shape fitted covering the ankle, and we can confirm patents related this spike.
Both of the two numbers above are flied in November 11, 2012.
Spikes for "no spin shot"
Then, Keisuke Honda is of Japanese national team, who moved to A.C. Milan in Serie A and whose jersey number is 10 in this year.
"no-spin free kick", this is the most suitable word to describe him, in the game against Denmark the group league of the last World Cup held in South Africa.
This no-spin shoot helped him to be attracted much attention, steered the Japanese team to victory, and is affected by not only his technique but also latest technology of Mizuno. The technology related to the upper structure (the instep of a shoe) that make possible to kick a ball easily as no-spin shoot by any players was filed.
（JP 4886922 B1 "upper structure for football shoe", transferred into national phase in EPO and Brazil patent office）
Utilizing both techniques developed by talents and efforts of top players and latest technologies created by insatiable scientific inquiry of top manufacturers leads to super plays and enthuse spectators all over the world.
※All the dates of the World Cup in this areticle are in the local time of Brazil.