Acushnet Company, which makes Titleist golf balls, said it won a long-running golf ball patent dispute with Callaway Golf Co. Callaway had asserted that certain Titleist golf balls had infringed on four patents originally owned by Spalding and later purchased by Callaway. The jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware rejected Callaway’s $246-million claim that rival ball maker Titleist infringed its patents.
The jury sided with Titleist’s arguments that even though its Pro V1 golf balls infringed the patents, the patents themselves werent enforceable because the design and construction did not represent a new concept or innovation when the patents were issued in 2001 and 2003. Titleist also argued that its design was developed independently.
Callaway had patented the use of multiple layers of different materials inside its golf balls, which Titleist contended was an obvious approach to construction.
“We are extremely pleased with the court’s decision, and we hope that this finally brings this long standing dispute to a close,” said Joe Nauman, Executive Vice President, Corporate and Legal, Acushnet Company, which is part of Fortune Brands, in a statement. “We have explained throughout this process that Acushnet independently developed the technology in question. The Titleist Pro V1 family utilizes technology from 74 Acushnet patents and was first introduced to our PGA TOUR players in October 2000, well before any of the Spalding patents were issued in 2001 and 2003. We appreciate the jury’s careful consideration of the facts and the time they devoted to these proceedings. This verdict affirms our view that all claims in these patents are invalid — just as the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) has repeatedly found.”
In January 2006, before Callaway filed this litigation, Acushnet said it petitioned the PTO to reexamine the four patents in the suit. Since then, the PTO has repeatedly found that all claims of all four patents are invalid. During this process, seven separate PTO examiners were involved in evaluating the validity of these patents and all seven concluded that they are invalid.
Acushnet also said has a comprehensive product and process Research and Development staff and the Pro V1 golf ball franchise represents the accumulation of technology developed by Acushnet over a 20-year period. As the worldwide golf ball performance and technology leader, Acushnet currently holds over 715 of the nearly 2,000 active patents related to golf balls — more than any other manufacturer.
Callaway said it would appeal the decision.
Callaway filed its patent lawsuit against Fortune Brands of Deerfield, Ill., in 2006. The next year, a jury ruled that three of the patents were valid and one was partly valid, but the findings were overturned last year on appeal.