Washington v. Boise State (Aug. 31, 2013)
August 31 has been circled on my calendar for a long time. Washington v. Boise State in the New Husky Stadium. When I moved to Boise in 2006, Boise State was coming off a 9-4 season, having been embarrassed at Georgia and blown out on the road at Fresno State. The Broncos also lost a close one to Oregon State, who managed to muster only three wins in the Pac-10 that year. Sadly, the ensuing years were the darkest in Husky football history and the brightest in Boise State’s history. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to making the trip to Seattle this weekend, watching Boise State go 0-2 in one of the finest venues in college football, and then gloating to Rex Johnson.
What does this have to do with patent litigation here in the Northwest?
Well, last week, Washington beat writer, Adam Jude, reported that the mighty men of Montlake have been outfitted with a concussion-monitoring system developed by Seattle-based startup, x2 Biosystems. The concussion-monitoring system is being used by other academic institutions with historic football programs, including Michigan and Stanford. (Neither Oregon nor BSU are using the system). NFL teams are also using x2′s technology.
At the heart of the system described in Adam’s post is the “xPatch” – a quarter-sized sensor that each player tapes behind his right ear. According to x2′s website, the xPatch wirelessly transmits head impact and injury data to an access point located on the sideline, and the data is recorded in a secure database. The system ”notifies athletic trainers, coaches, and team physicians in realtime about impacts to players’ heads, and provides a suite of tools supporting athlete assessment in bench v. play decisions, recovery and safe return to play protocols.”
X2′s system is the subject of U.S Patent No. 8,466,794, titled “Head Impact Event Reporting System.” The ’794 Patent names three inventors from the Evergreen State and is assigned to x2.
The ’794 Patent is an interesting read. In short, it discloses a plurality of sensors that send data to a “sideline module,” which coaches and trainers can use to assess the severity of a hit. In one embodiment, the system employs a “Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light” system. The sideline module displays a green light in the ”absence of significant impact events for a given player,” a yellow light when “immediate sideline evaluation” is necessary, and a red light when the impact is severe enough to require immediate evaluation by a physician and removal from play.
The sensors disclosed in the ’794 Patent use accelerometers and gyros to determine the rate of acceleration and orientation of the sensor unit. The accelerometer “preferably” senses accelerations of at least 90 g-force. That sounds like a lot, but 90 g is apparently at the low end of the force required to suffer a concussion.
As more and more evidence unfolds concerning the long-term impacts of concussions, X2′s concussion-management system is timely. Let’s hope the system leads to improvements in concussion prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, and let’s hope the Dawgs pull off a concussion-free win this weekend.