Acushnet Company, the golf business of Fortune Brands, Inc., and Callaway Golf Company have filed patent infringement lawsuits against one another in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. Acushnet asserts that Callaways 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. Callaways 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.
Callaways 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 Jan. 1, 2009. That injunction prompted Acushnet to initiate a nationwide recall of infringing golf balls through a “retail exchange program” on Dec. 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. Acushnets motion to stay the trial courts 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 EVP, chief administrative pfficer, 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.”
Acushnet said it plans to vigorously defend against assertions by Callaway that the 2009 Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls infringe Callaways patent rights. The company says 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 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.
“As the industry leader, we respect the valid intellectual property of others and expect others to respect ours,” said Joe Nauman, EVP, 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.”
“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 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.