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: functional undergarments. 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.  

Functional undergarments is a key innovation area in sports

Functional undergarments are specialized underwear designed with specific functionalities beyond basic comfort and modesty. These undergarments are engineered to serve functions such as providing support, moisture-wicking, temperature regulation, compression, or protection against certain environmental factors. They are often worn during physical activities, sport, or specific situations where their functional features can enhance performance, comfort, or health.

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 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established sports companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of functional undergarments.

Key players in functional undergarments – 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 functional undergarments

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Good People 1 Unlock Company Profile
Authentic Brands Group 8 Unlock Company Profile
Cupid Foundations 5 Unlock Company Profile
Fast Retailing 14 Unlock Company Profile
Proterial 1 Unlock Company Profile
NIKE 27 Unlock Company Profile
Bath & Body Works 8 Unlock Company Profile
Hanesbrands 86 Unlock Company Profile
The E-LAND Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Van de Velde 4 Unlock Company Profile
Tefron 6 Unlock Company Profile
Embry 8 Unlock Company Profile
Top Form International 13 Unlock Company Profile
Koch Industries 1 Unlock Company Profile
Marks and Spencer Group 3 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Electric 1 Unlock Company Profile
Wacoal 43 Unlock Company Profile
Unilever 1 Unlock Company Profile
Cowell Fashion 1 Unlock Company Profile
Utax 5 Unlock Company Profile
Victoria's Secret 1 Unlock Company Profile
PETIT VEHICULE 2 Unlock Company Profile
HD Hyundai 1 Unlock Company Profile
Torrid 1 Unlock Company Profile
Triumph Intertrade 6 Unlock Company Profile
Bazooka Jane 5 Unlock Company Profile
Regina Miracle International (Group) 14 Unlock Company Profile
Edizone 1 Unlock Company Profile
Clover Mystique 35 Unlock Company Profile
SK Square 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Functional undergarments in sports play a crucial role in supporting an athlete’s overall well-being and performance optimization. Some examples of technologies used in functional undergarments include X-temp (Hanesbrands), BodySuede (Wacoal), UA RUSH (Under Armour), Ergonomic sport system (Falke), Dri-FIT (Nike), X-Static (Proterial), and ClimaCool (adidas).

Hanesbrands is one of the leading patent filers in functional undergarments. Some other key patent filers in the field include Wacoal, FALKE, Under Armour, and Artemis.

In terms of application diversity, Proterial leads the pack, while Utax and HD Hyundai stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Clover Mystique held the top position, followed by Fast Retailing and Nike.

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.