It's been a little while since a major heavyweight legal battle has taken place in the golf biz. Well, time to lace up the gloves and ring the bell. Callaway Golf has sued Acushnet, parent company of Titleist. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Callaway filed suit on Thursday alleging that the Titleist Pro V1 ball uses technology covered by four patents that Callaway acquired when it purchased Top-Flite Golf out of bankruptcy in 2003.
The story in the Union-Trib breaks it down as such: According to Callaway, the two companies had been in settlement talks for some time, but the talks had broken down. According to Acushnet, the company's legal team is reviewing the complaint and has nothing to say at this time.
The four patents are several years old and have to do with the solid-core technology that the Pro V1 golf balls use. As you may recall, Top-Flite's Strata balls had a similar three-layer, solid-core design years before the Pro V1 hit the market. There are significant differences between the two balls - and other balls like the Nike Tour Accuracy and Callaway Rule 35 also beat the Pro V1 to market - but Top-Flite did have many patents covering the construction of multilayer, solid-core golf balls. Top-Flite's intellectual property and patent portfolio were key elements in Callaway's decision to buy the company. And don't forget that Callaway had to license some patents from Acushnet to avoid legal trouble with the Rule 35 and CTU 30 golf balls.
It seems a bit odd that Callaway would wait until now to take this to court, but the company has plenty of experience in the world of legal skirmishes. Patent battles take place fairly often, and it's difficult to handicap how they might come out. Usually, they're settled very quietly. After all, Bridgestone sued Acushnet last year, claiming that the Pro V1 violated 10 of that company's patents - and nothing has been heard of that claim since.
But Callaway vs. Acushnet? Them's the two biggest names in the biz, the two biggest golf ball sellers. If they've already had protracted negotiations that haven't borne fruit, maybe this will be the rare spat that actually sees a courtroom.