Ed Pauls, inventor of the NordicTrack cross-country ski exerciser, died last month at the age of 80. He patented his ski machine in 1977 (US 4,023,795). Pauls was not the first inventor to conceive of an exercise machine that simulated skiing. However, his design was small and portable enough to be used in most homes.
The success of the NordicTrack inspired numerous other designs. In 1980, just a few years after Pauls received his patent, the USPTO issued just 179 patents for exercise machines (Class 482). By the end of the 1990s the USPTO was issuing more than 350 patents for exercise machines per year. In 2010, the USPTO issued 736 patents for exercise devices. The top patent owners include Nautilus, Icon IP and Brunswick Corporation.
There are more than 17,000 patents classified in Class 482, 33 percent issued since 2000. The earliest patent in the class was issued on Sept. 9, 1825 to John Tustin of Philadelphia for a railroad turntable design. The first patent for a true "exercising machine", US 3,480, was issued on March 13, 1844 to Oliver Halsted of New York.