Ball Position – Acushnet and Callaway Issue Releases

If you saw the previous post you would know that once again that the issue of intellectual rights regarding golf ball technology has surfaced in the industry.

I erroneously reported that Acushnet had “responded” to Callaway’s patent infringement filing from this morning but I have since edited out that line and subsequent link after further information was brought to my attention.

Although golf balls was the central topic of today’s release from Acushnet and Callaway is mentioned in that material, apparently the topic is a separate issue – not a specific response to today’s filing by Callaway.

In fairness to both parties involved I am posting today’s releases from each company so the reader can be better informed about the current events.

It is a very contentious and sensitive issue for both companies and we would not want to do a disservice to each company in making sure that the message they are sending out is clearly interpreted.

Thanks to their respective PR departments for staying in touch.

We do not take a position in this situation but hope that the court system will be able to make a decision amenable to both parties in all cases.

From Acushnet:


Acushnet Asserts U.S. Patents Against Callaway’s Tour i and Tour ix Golf Balls

Acushnet Defends Pro V1 Family Against Unfounded Assertions by Callaway

Fairhaven, MA (March 3, 2009) – Acushnet Company, manufacturer of Titleist, the #1 ball in golf, today announced a series of actions to protect the intellectual property related to its golf ball products.

Protecting Acushnet Intellectual Property

Acushnet filed a patent infringement lawsuit today against Callaway Golf in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. In its complaint, Acushnet asserts that Callaway’s Tour i and Tour ix golf balls infringe nine United States patents from Acushnet’s extensive golf ball patent portfolio covering multi-piece, solid core technology.

“As the industry leader, we respect the valid intellectual property of others and expect others to respect ours,” said Joe Nauman, Executive Vice President, Corporate and Legal, Acushnet Company. “We believe that disagreements like these are best dealt with between the companies involved and we have repeatedly attempted to resolve these disputes. When these discussions failed, Callaway left us with no other course of action but to move forward with this lawsuit. We are hopeful that these matters can be resolved, but we will continue to protect our intellectual property rights.”

Protecting Pro V1 Family from Unfounded Assertions

Acushnet also announced actions to vigorously defend against assertions by Callaway that the 2009 Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls infringe Callaway’s patent rights. These claims are without merit, as Acushnet has designed its new Pro V1 models to be outside the claims of all Callaway patents. Acushnet has today asked the court to rule that the patents asserted by Callaway are not infringed and are invalid. Acushnet is also in the process of filing for reexamination of these and other Callaway patents with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“These actions do not impact our customers’ and golfers’ ability to purchase and play our new Pro V1 golf balls,” said Wally Uihlein, Chairman and CEO, Acushnet Company. “We remain committed to providing golfers with the highest quality, best performing golf balls, and to insuring that the choice of what ball to play remains with the golfer.”

Acushnet Remains Confident in Ongoing Litigation

Acushnet also underscored that it remains confident in its ongoing appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit of the mixed verdict rendered more than a year ago in the long-running patent dispute with Callaway related to the validity of four patents that Callaway previously asserted. Since the jury verdict, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has issued final actions determining that those patents are invalid, and these favorable Patent Office rulings will be considered in the appeals process.

“It’s regrettable that one of our competitors would rather compete in the courtroom than in the pro shop,” Nauman concluded. “However, we are committed to seeing these matters through to appropriate conclusions. While all litigation is uncertain, we remain confident that we will prevail.”

Acushnet is the industry leader in developing golf ball technology and has over 650 active golf ball patents – more than any other manufacturer. The Titleist Pro V1 has been the world’s best-selling golf ball for more than seven years and is the product of technology developed and accumulated by the Acushnet Company over the past 20 years. Over 65 Acushnet Company patents are related to the Titleist Pro V1 family.

And from Callaway today:

Callaway Asserts Newest Titleist Pro VI Golf Balls Infringe Patents

CARLSBAD, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Mar. 3, 2009– Callaway Golf Company (NYSE:ELY) today announced it has filed a new patent infringement lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware against The Acushnet Company, the golf business of Fortune Brands, Inc. The lawsuit alleges that the new 2009 Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls, available to the public in spring 2009, infringe golf ball patents owned by Callaway Golf.

This new suit follows the successful patent infringement action filed by Callaway Golf against Acushnet in February 2006 which resulted in a permanent injunction halting sales of earlier versions of the Pro V1 family of golf balls, effective January 1, 2009. That injunction prompted Acushnet to initiate a nationwide recall of infringing golf balls through a “retail exchange program” on December 29, 2008.

Callaway Golf first prevailed against Acushnet in patent litigation when it won a jury verdict in December 2007. In that proceeding, it was determined that Acushnet had infringed multiple valid claims of four U.S. golf ball patents owned by Callaway Golf. In November 2008, the trial court granted Callaway a permanent injunction to halt sales of the infringing golf balls. Acushnet’s motion to stay the trial court’s injunction was denied by three judges from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in December 2008. The injunction remains in effect today.

“We were disappointed to discover that Titleist and Acushnet have again used patented Callaway technology in their Pro V1 golf balls,” said Steve McCracken, Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, Callaway Golf. “As long as Titleist – or any competitor – continues to introduce products that we believe infringe our patents, we will continue to seek relief in the courts. We expect to prevail in this second suit as well.”