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Innovators, entrepreneurs see region as perfect incubator for action sports industry

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Action sports in the San Diego region continue to see a lot of, well, action. While many of the more traditional sports such as golf, running and cycling continue on their steady courses of product growth, player participation and audience interest, we are accelerating our quest for ways to go faster, flip higher and fly farther. We are, in the words of my 10-year-old son, searching for the next "sick stick" on which to ride to levels previously unattainable. As a patent attorney in the San Diego office of Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo, to me that means a spacebound trajectory in innovation for the local action sports industry.

Southern California is the perfect laboratory for creating and developing action-oriented products. Our main resources are our people and the environment that surrounds us. On any given day, one can watch skateboarders, mountain bikers, in-line skaters, surfers and stand-up paddlers within a span of a few minutes. That density of engagement in the action sports lifestyle provokes further experimentation, creativity and improvement, both in how we perform and about the things on which we perform.

And it's not merely the pursuit of youthful activity. Just look at legendary surfer Kelly Slater. Even in his late 30s, he continues to rip it up against competition half his age, while innovating and inventing some of the most far out concepts that promise to forever change the sport and activity of surfing.

While always involved with action sports growing up in San Diego, I got my first real taste as an attorney practicing in the industry in 2002. That year, I was introduced to Tad Stout, a lifetime resident of La Jolla, a surfer and a visionary about the benefits of water exercise and therapy. Stout's nascent company, Aqualogix, had only barely scraped together enough resources to file a single patent application and cobble together a set of crude, handmade prototypes of omni-directional resistance hand "bells" and ankle "cuffs" -- like wiffle-ball gloves for your hands and rocket fins for your ankles. What he lacked in resources, though, he more than made up in passion. To be able to work with him as a client, I paid Stout to train me, and he would, in turn, use some of that money to hire my firm to have me work with him. He invited me to our first session at "his pool" -- a local hotel's pool that was, uh, most conveniently entered under the cover of darkness.

I was blown away by the effectiveness of his devices from the very first workout, and could envision the positive benefits these products could have for people of all ages, abilities and conditions. Seven years later, I continue to use Aqualogix's products religiously, and Mintz Levin has just succeeded in getting Stout his sixth patent. Stout continues to innovate with new and previously inconceivable products.

While I have no doubts that experience with our clients' inventions have helped Mintz Levin provide top quality legal services to these clients, the real key to the firm's growing action sports practice is our integrated, multipractice approach, combined with not being afraid of working literally side-by-side with our action sports clients. Do you need us to ride your new carbon skin surfboard to understand its flex characteristics? No problem. You want me to drop down a mountain to experience the toughness of your new wire core snowboard binding straps? Lock me in. Barrel down the street on your new skateboard trucks? Just let me get my helmet. We like doing these things just as much as you would like us to do these things.

Another reason for our success in this industry is our expertise in just about any legal problem that could conceivably touch on action sports, as well as any industry. State your problem, and I'll bet Mintz Levin has an expert who is experienced in solving it. This depth experience, as well as our cross-practice approach provides our clients with a solid base from which to go faster, higher, farther, and, yes, be "sicker" than ever before.

Cleary is a member in Mintz Levin's San Diego office, practicing in the Intellectual Property Section. He focuses on patent law, with an emphasis on electrical, telecommunications, software and mechanical technologies.

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