Pair of golf ball-makers tee up new patent lawsuits
New design renews patent feud between Callaway, Acushnet
By James P. Miller | Tribune reporter
March 4, 2009
Callaway Golf Co. and the golf-products subsidiary of Deerfield-based Fortune Brands Inc. have teed off on each other in court, again, over the patent rights to a golf-ball design.
The dueling lawsuits are the latest in a long-running intellectual-property feud between Callaway and Fortune's Acushnet unit, which makes Titleist golf balls.
In its latest suit, Callaway asks the federal district court in Delaware to bar Fortune from rolling out a new line of Titleist balls, which the maker claims have been redesigned to remedy any infringement. But they still do, claims Callaway.
California-based Callaway has made progress in its claim that Titleist's successful Pro V1 golf balls infringe on patents covering its "Holy Grail" of golf balls, which it characterizes as offering distance off the tee and a good feel and spin on the greens.
Acushnet consistently has denied any infringement.
Callaway says Titleist brought out the pricey Pro V1 line several years ago in response to Callaway's launch of the "Rule 35" ball, which uses a thin, soft polyurethane cover around a multilayer core that differed from traditional "wound" golf ball construction.
In 2007 a federal jury ruled that eight of the patents Callaway was relying on were valid, which meant Acushnet's Titleist Pro V1 balls were infringing on them. Acushnet appealed the verdict. In the meantime, the court agreed to Callaway's request and issued an injunction barring Titleist from selling the balls in question.
While that tussle was under way, Titleist modified the composition of its Pro V1 and V1x lines. It plans to offer those modified balls in the spring, Callaway's lawsuit notes. But the new designs still contain elements that infringe, it alleges.
Acushnet also went to court Tuesday, to countersue Callaway, charging its Tour i and Tour ix balls "unlawfully incorporate the technology" that is covered by Titleist's patent.