The catcher’s mask was introduced in the 1870s, and at the time it wasn’t very well-received. It was the object of ridicule at the first game where it was worn. Fans and the press both didn’t see the value.
As this article in the New York Times details, the catcher’s mask was developed by Harvard baseball team manager Fredrick Thayer who patented the mask in 1878. The mask ultimately “changed how the game was played” as a pitcher no longer had to worry about injuring the catcher.
The Spalding company quickly advertised its own version, without paying Thayer royalties on his patented invention. The case went to court and Thayer won, making him a great example of using patent rights to reward an innovator. Spalding went on to popularize the catcher’s mask.
Just another great example of the power of licensing in action. We’ll be sharing more stories in the coming weeks and months.