On August 11, 2020 a company called Greiner Agencies based out of California was issued patent number 10,737,167 for a “baseball pitch quality determination method and apparatus.” A group called QOP (Quality of Pitch) Baseball announced the patent in a September 13 tweet and also sent warning messages to Eno Sarris of the Athletic, along with others in the baseball journalism community who study and write about pitch quality, or “stuff.”
While this is not Cubs-related news, it does fall at the intersection of my hobby job here at Cubs Insider and my full-time job with the U.S. Patent Office. As such, I could not resist discussing it and providing some useful information to anyone else who may have been threatened by QOP Baseball or who just wondered what was going on.
The nutshell version is that, unless you are physically in a baseball stadium using a camera or radar gun or similar sensor, you are not infringing QOP Baseball’s patent. QOP Baseball’s messages threaten that using “any other metrics that attempt to calculate pitch quality will [infringe their] patent.” This is bull-cookies.
When you buy land, you get a deed that defines the borders of your property. Patents have something called “claims” that similarly define the borders of a persons invention using words. The main claim in QOP Baseball’s patent is over a page long, which is quite lengthy by patent standards, but it does not actually define a baseball metric. It instead defines a machine system for analyzing and rating a pitch in real time using cameras and processors.
In order to infringe QOP Baseball’s patent a person must a) physically use a sensor of some type (radar gun, camera, etc) to track the pitch; b) have a processor of some type that breaks down positional data about the pitch and then gives the pitch a “rating”, and; c) have a system that displays this pitch rating in real time. Needless to say, if you are blogging from your house or contributing to the sabermetric community with post-game analysis, you are not performing these steps.
Editor’s note: I’ve actually had several social media interactions with QOP, all of which were initiated by them in response to a tweet about a Cubs pitcher throwing a good game or having a particularly nasty pitch. Their results seemed dubious at best and CI’s Brendan Miller dismissed the information outright when I asked him about it. To be honest, it felt like a little kid trying to get attention and I figured they were just trying to get their foot in the door.
But for someone like Harry Pavlidis, Director of R&D for Baseball Prospectus, this move by QOP was a slap in the face. Not only has the baseball statistics community been developing new and better ways to quantify the game for decades, but it’s always been open about sharing and educating others. While the calculation of some metrics may be proprietary, the environment never got hostile.
More than just their threats, Pavlidis was insulted by what he considers to be shoddy work all the way around.
This is trash, people have been doing this work for the better part of 20 years. I hope someone contests it. https://t.co/6JuRhYfIvg
— Harry Pavlidis, one dog and no parodies. (@harrypav) September 14, 2020
weak math skills, heavy handed marketing approaches, and anti-community behavior does not make you an industry leader, no matter how many weak sauce patents you file
— Harry Pavlidis, one dog and no parodies. (@harrypav) September 22, 2020
Anyway, just wanted to add that to Moshe’s informative piece.