Traditionally, sports-related patents have focused on objects or methods of making those objects. Examples include hockey sticks, putters or methods of drilling holes in bowling balls.

Some patents have also been allowed that incorporated human movements connected to such objects. The patent office issued a patent to Dale Miller on April 1, 1997, however, that is believed to be the first patent that claims an invention that is comprised entirely of human movements. See U.S. Patent No. 5,616,089.

The U.S. is one of the few countries that allow inventors to patent surgical methods. However, such patents became unenforceable against medical practitioners and other related entities by statute in 1996. This has limited the usefulness of such patents.

Of course, there are some limits. Some non-statutory subject matter is excluded from patent protection as follows:
  • Printed matter
  • Naturally occurring materials
  • Human beings
  • Scientific principles
  • A chemical compound having no utility
  • Atomic weapons
Atomic weapons are specifically excluded by a separate statute, 42 U.S.C. 2181(a).