The sports industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by consumer demand, competitive pressures, performance enhancement, injury prevention, and tactical insights and the growing importance of technologies such as sensor technology, machine learning & artificial intelligence (AI), energy harvesting, material science, augmented reality, 3D printing and biomechanics analysis. In the last three years alone, there have been over 76,000 patents filed and granted in the sports industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in sports: breathable fabrics. Buy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 49,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the sports industry, there are 10+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.  

Breathable fabrics is a key innovation area in sports

Breathable fabrics refer to specially designed textile materials used in apparel that allow for the efficient exchange of air and moisture between the wearer’s body and the surrounding environment. These fabrics are engineered to enhance comfort and performance during physical activities by promoting effective moisture wicking, ventilation, and temperature regulation. Breathable fabrics are commonly used in sportswear, outdoor apparel, and everyday clothing to enhance comfort in various weather conditions and during physical activities.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 60+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established sports companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of breathable fabrics.

Key players in breathable fabrics – a disruptive innovation in the sports industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to breathable fabrics

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
New Balance 10 Unlock Company Profile
Artemis 32 Unlock Company Profile
Authentic Brands Group 6 Unlock Company Profile
NIKE 330 Unlock Company Profile
Hanesbrands 18 Unlock Company Profile
Decathlon 16 Unlock Company Profile
Toray Industries 14 Unlock Company Profile
Amer Sports 23 Unlock Company Profile
Gunze 6 Unlock Company Profile
ASICS 19 Unlock Company Profile
Shimano 10 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid of China 5 Unlock Company Profile
Boardriders 7 Unlock Company Profile
Koch Industries 6 Unlock Company Profile
Berkshire Hathaway 25 Unlock Company Profile
W. L. Gore & Associates 6 Unlock Company Profile
Hengan International Group 9 Unlock Company Profile
Wacoal 52 Unlock Company Profile
Goldwin 11 Unlock Company Profile
Asahi Kasei 7 Unlock Company Profile
Mizuno 13 Unlock Company Profile
Sanko 11 Unlock Company Profile
adidas 30 Unlock Company Profile
Fox Head 9 Unlock Company Profile
Under Armour 36 Unlock Company Profile
Trere' Innovation 8 Unlock Company Profile
ROKA Sports 9 Unlock Company Profile
Christian Wenger 26 Unlock Company Profile
Gymshark 6 Unlock Company Profile
FALKE 39 Unlock Company Profile
Eldridge Industries 17 Unlock Company Profile
Pentland Group 24 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Breathable sports fabrics help athletes stay dry, cool and comfortable, reducing the risk of overheating and discomfort during strenuous workouts or competitive sports. They are widely utilized in sportswear, including jerseys, shorts, athletic socks, and sport-specific gear, to optimize athletes' overall experience and performance. Moisture-wicking technology Dri-FIT (Nike), ClimaCool and AEROREADY (adidas), HeatGear (Under Armour), AeroWick (New Balance), and  AeroReady (Puma), are a few examples of breathable technologies and fabric treatments.

Nike is one of the leading patent filers in breathable fabrics. Some other key patent filers in the field include Wacoal, FALKE, abd Under Armour.

In terms of application diversity, Berkshire Hathaway leads the pack, while Koch Industries and Gymshark stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, FALKE held the top position, followed by Berkshire Hathaway and Hanesbrands.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the sports industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Sports.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.