Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Very Cool Invention

It's 82 degrees and it's still hockey season.  Time for some hockey inventions.

The Zamboni ice resurfacing machines are one of the  the added attractions of going to a hockey game or to the ice rink. Watching this elegant machine drive across the ice placing a new sheer surface on the ice is one of the highlights, the fans even cheer the Zamboni driver when the machine makes its way out of its game time hiding place.

The Zamboni Company finds itself in the same situation as Xerox (a photocopier) and Kleenex (a tissue). The company  works very hard to keep its trademarked product name from being turned into a noun. When that happens the IP world calls it trademark dilution. The 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games have got the people at Zamboni Company on the job.

Apparently the battery operated ice resurfacing machines built by the Zamboni Company's Canadian competitor, Resurfice Corp. failed to perform at the level of quality for Olympic level elite competition. When there were delays in the events because of problems, the media reported it as being caused by the Zamboni rather than by saying it was caused by the ice resurfacing machines.'s article on the subject clarifies the situation as did articles in other media outlets. The article also reported on Charles Schulz's love of the Zamboni Machine which began in 1980. Snoopy has even been seen driving his own Zamboni Machine.

The National Hockey League even sells team machine pins and die cast models of their machines. The Washington Capitals, who sadly didn't make it to the Finals this year, don't have their own Zamboni pin on their online store web site.  This is a disappointment.

If you are a gamer, you can even drive the Zamboni in your NHL 2K9game which features the Zamboni Achievement challenge that challenges you to clear the ice before the time runs out.

Check out Mr. Zamboni's early patent, 2,763,939 issued in September of 1956.  The patent for a complex invention had only 10 columns of text and and eight (8!!!) claims.  The Zamboni site also has a great archive section complete with pictures on the history of this iconic machine.

The bottom line, from an intellectual property perspective, it's bad for business when your product name becomes a noun. You need to protect your trademark. But for the rest of us who love the Zamboni Machine, we don't want it getting a bad rap because of a competitor.