How is it possible to get a patent on something that is very generic in nature and not an invention like stating a sporting events, storing it in a database and showing it to the public live in some way? Am I missing something there?
When determining the scope of a patent you need to read the claims. Many patents that seem to be broad in scope are actually narrower because of limitations described in the claims. In the case of US8731458, the first claim reads as follows.
A system for tracking information related to a baseball game comprising:
a mobile electronic device capable of communication with a wireless phone and data network;
a remote database in communication with said wireless phone and data network;
a software application running on said mobile electronic device, said software application configured to receive game data from said database related to conducting said baseball game, and wherein said software application is further configured to receive statistical data from a user related to said baseball game and transmit said data to said database once said data is input into said mobile device;
a plurality of access points capable of accessing said database to view said game data related to said baseball game as it is uploaded to said database from said mobile electronic device in real time;
wherein said device includes a graphical user interface and said software application is configured to display a graphical representation of a baseball field, and wherein the location of baseball hit into play may be indicated by contacting the corresponding location on said graphical representation of a baseball field;
and wherein said software application is configured to prompt a user to input statistical data related to said baseball game, including providing a menu having selections for possible outcomes of a baseball play or baseball pitch, and upload said statistical data to said remote database to allow said statistical data to be shared to said access points.
I haven't read through the patent, but it seems different from most sports apps in that it is asking to user to enter the statistical information into the app rather that just providing the information to the user. Thus is seems to be a patent mostly on the collecting of data rather than a patent on the providing of data. Also, it is limited to baseball only. It seems to be aimed at amateur baseball where there are no professional media sources collecting and transmitting information on the game. By providing a mobile app that fans can input the data it allows collecting and distribution of game information. How it deals with multiple users inputting conflicting information or missing stats and plays I don't know.
I'm not offering an opinion on whether this is a good or bad patent, but my guess is that ESPN isn't overly worried about it.
I do not understand what the examiner saw as non-obvious over the prior art but the examiner did look at the following -
US20020019677A1 2000-08-09 2002-02-14 Lee Jae Woo -- Method for providing personal golf record information using the internet
US20020049507A1 1999-12-07 2002-04-25 Tapio Hameen-Anttila -- Recording game information into a server
US20020091723A1 2001-01-10 2002-07-11 Talknsports Enterprises -- System and method for collection, conversion and presentation of sports data