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9 Plays Winter Rules in the Summer

About DwightC

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  1. +1 that there are no bullies here. You've simply got a market incumbent (Acushnet) that has historically used its IP portfolio successfully to defend its market share against new entrants and a new entrant (Costco) that is significantly larger than the previous smaller potential competitors. What Acushnet has to have concluded is that the opportunity (golf balls) is so trivial in the greater scheme of Costco that an aggressive letter would deter Costco. It does not appear to have done so. If Costco has concluded that golf balls are representative of a class of opportunities which are collectively an attractive brand extension opportunity for Kirtland Signature (niche markets where the market leader defends its position with a combination of brand equity and an IP portfolio), I would be looking to de-escalate the situation, if I were Acushnet.
  2. Guys-- Thanks for the feedback and the suggestions. The list of threads was a good start to resuming on this website (if I can restrain myself from pontificating about Costco golfballs), and, seriously, that post about conscious/unconscious competence/incompetence was really, really helpful (you need a strategy and sense of timing in taking lessons, as well as in practice and on the course). And, all the comments on conditioning, yeah, I think my first step in all this is to meet with the trainer about tweaking my cardio-focused gym routine to refocus a little on core body and flexibility issues. Everything else--lessons and new gear, I'll take one step at a time. Demo days always were fun. Lessons, I was always a lessons junkie. Anyhow, thanks and keep the comments coming!
  3. In the end, I don't think this is about corporate bullying or protecting intellectual property. None of us know much about Acushnet's IP portfoliio (other than that they use it as a powerful marketing tool), and, when you are talking about well established corporations with market capitalizations in excess of $1-billion each, they have legal budgets that can take the litigation expense. So forget the bullying claims. They may not be entirely rational actors, but they aren't kids on the elementary school playground, either. What you've got here is, basically, 'when business models collide.' The warehouse clubs strip out layers of distribution and virtually all promotional/marketing clubs, put the stuff on a pallet, and see what moves as thousands of member/customers parade up and down the aisle. If it moves they pile more on pallet. And that's about it. Forget manufacturing, forget supply chain management (well, dip your toe in it for the house label stuff), and forget R&D--those are problems for the vendors. OTOH, Titleist, AFAIK, doesn't sell golf balls to golfers--it sells them to distributors who in turn move them to retailers, who then, with the assistance of enormous marketing efforts by Titleist, sell them to you and me. Titleist gets a competitive edge from (1) making a better golf ball, and (2) a marketing budget devoted to player endorsements, etc. Them's the facts, as they say. The letter Acushnet sent Costo attempts to defend both of its strategies, saying, in effect, you can't sell your better golf ball with violating our patents, and you can't claim your golf ball is as good as ours. Everybody is focusing on the first claim, but I'll bet the second claim may have been what tipped the balance at Costco and led them to file the declaratory judgement action. Now, generally, a corporation isn't going to file a declaratory judgement unless it relates to (1) something vital to the corporate interests or (2) a matter of broader principle and the facts are very much in your favor. Here, you can rule out the first--Costco can do very well, thank you, without golf balls, club sets, gloves, etc., just sticking to tennis balls and vodka, groceries and apparel. Golf balls, well, don't leave money on the table, but it's a sideline (which may be what Acushnet was banking on). So that takes you to the second reason--it's a matter of bigger principle and you've got good facts. I suspect that's what's going on here. Now, before you can make an example out of somebody, the facts have to be in your favor. That implies that the patent infringement claims are baseless, or at least that Costco and its counsel think they are. Where does that leave Acushnet? With a big problem, if you ask me. Their letter strikes me as the sort of thing they send out routinely. Earlier in this post somebody reeled off a list of smaller companies that had been successfully intimidated by a legal threat from them. So, they sent a letter out. Snuff that problem before it gets big. And on to the next fire. Instead, ka-blewie. They've drawn the black bean. Costco is going to use their sorry hide the beat a message into market incumbents in everything from bath towels to baby food. Hmm. I would, if I were Acushnet, take this opportunity to de-escalate the situation. The world is big enough for Titleist and a good private label golf ball.
  4. Whoa. Let's not accuse anybody of stealing anything. Costco has filed a lawsuit (that's what a declaratory judgement is) to determine who's right here. Thieves do not file lawsuits before they steal. Acushnet is going to have to defend that lawsuit. Fine. Acushnet had a right to assert claims based on its intellectual property in the letter it sent Costco that started all this. By asserting its right it triggered litigation. Presumably it took that risk into account. If you go back and look at the Calloway Acushnet litigation over the ProV1, note that it was settled with a cross licensing agreement and no monetary payments, either way. I've got no idea how this all plays out. And nobody is bullying anybody. Both of these companies have market caps in excess of $1-billion. Acushnet may have a reputation for bullying smaller players in its space and all the wholesale clubs are notorious for squeezing their vendors, but so what? If you're a vendor to Walmart or Costco, that's the deal you made with the Devil, and if you're a little guy in IP protected space, you knew all about intimidation by the bigger players when you stepped into the space.
  5. What if the KSig ball violates an Acushnet patent? I have no idea what's in the Acushnet intellectual property portfolio and I'm not an IP lawyer, but a couple of observations: Marketers promote products as innovative, new technology, patented, etc. without going into much detail about what exactly the nature of the patent is. There are, for example, a whole class of patents, called process patents, which relate to how you make the product, not, say, the design of the product itself. If the manufacturing process of the Ksig ball were found to infringe on an Acushnet patent, that would between Acushnet and the manufacturer, not Costco. It's a lot easier to get a patent granted than it is to defend one, particularly when the party you're accusing of a patent violation has pockets even deeper than your own. If you sue an alleged infringer, you run a substantial risk of having your patent invalidated. That's one of the reasons companies send letters, hold discussions, go into mediation, etc., rather than just hauling off and suing each other. Here, the letter was SOP, seeking the declaratory judgment is aggressive. Candidly, without getting down in the weeds, but having read this thread and a couple of links, I'm not sure how the Ksig ball (if it was a knockoff of another company's ball being sold in Europe without allegations of patent infringement) could be infringing on Acushnet patents. But, if the Acushnet patents were determined to be valid and if the ball was found to infringe on them, then presumably Costco would answer in damages. I would guess that Costco's contractual arrangement with its vendor includes some kind of indemnity, but I don't know. Given how Costco is proceeding here--seeking a declaratory judgment--punitive damages are highly unlikely, and, given Costco's margins (15%), liability capped at its profits from the sale of the balls is likely to be highly unsatisfactory to Acushnet, leaving Acushnet trying to recover its profits lost from the competition from the Ksig ball. Good luck with that one.
  6. I don't know much about golf or golf merchandising, but I do know something about warehouse clubs, branding and law, and this should be entertaining. Some things to keep in mind: Costco is bigger than Acushnet. Acushnet may be the 800 lb gorilla in the fairway mists, but Costco is the white hunter in the jungle rough collecting specimens for the Museum of Natural History back home. Costco's market cap is roughly 60x that of Acushnet. The Kirtland brand is every bit as important to Costco as Titleist is to Accushnet. Think Craftsman and Sears, or 365 and Whole Foods. I don't care whether you are talking about olive oil or bedsheets, bacon or golf balls, Costco needs its customers ('members') to perceive Kirtland Signature as the best, or as good as the best, and differences between it and other leading brands to be a matter of taste, style and design choice, not quality, reliability or durability. (When Costco wants to offer lower quality merchandise at a lower price point, they have some captive brands, 32 Degrees comes to mind, to produce to that spec.) Costco doesn't spend money on R & D, golf or otherwise. That's the responsibility of their vendors. If a former vendor (Acushnet) wants to divert R & D dollars to litigation expense, that's their business. I doubt it even affects Costco's willingness to do business with them down the pike. Here, I'm not sure if Costco should charge its expenses in this fight to the legal budget or to marketing. They certainly are generating some good ink for themselves. Bottom line--I understand why Acushnet wrote the letter, but putting it in the mail probably wasn't a very good idea.
  7. Well, I would never argue with you about golf (especially after that thread on conscious/unconscious incompetence/proficiency), but on the matters involving the judgement of history, I'm here to say it's way too early to even try to assess (except as entertainment) Tiger Woods' place in golf history. The man is still a competitor, wounded, yes, lame, yes, his best behind him, certainly. But he's still on the course. What if at age 59 he were to pull off what Tom Watson almost did a couple of years ago, and actually win the British Open? So, it's too early to weigh Tiger in the balance. That means, for me, contemporary opinion on the GOAT issue and Tiger doesn't carry much weight. We are just getting to the point that we have enough distance on his glory years to assess Nicklaus. Apocryphal story--when the Chinese political leader Zhou En Lai was asked (1972) about the historical impact of the French Revolution (1789), he supposedly replied that it's still too early to know, only time will tell. By the way, I really don't want to highjack this thread into a Tiger vs. Jack argument, and I'm sorry if I have.
  8. Letting go is really hard to do. Meanwhile, Jack is showing real class, going six under (his age) at Ernie Els' charity pro-am for autistic children. Wait a few decades for history's verdict on the GOAT question--young Tom Morris, Bobby Jones, yeah, maybe, Jack, Tiger? I dunno. And the game changes enough over the years that the answer doesn't mean much. Tiger was definitely the BOHE (Best Of His Era), and a sad twilight vs. a beautiful sunset isn't going to change what happened at high noon.
  9. The original post just may be the very best piece of golfing advice I've ever read on the Internet. And the discussion that follows has been awfully interesting, though perhaps a bit too verbal to be as helpful. I have been away from golf for a few years and am dipping my toe back in the water. Back in the day, I was real lesson junkie and reading this makes me realize that, yeah, I will certainly resume lessons, but I need to take control of the timing of them and avoid the overload of swing keys/thoughts/whatevers that are a dead giveaway for my old overthinking, too cerebral, analytically overwhelmed approach to what is, immediately, a tactile sensation and a physical result.
  10. I haven't carried a handicap in ten years, and haven't picked up a stick in five, but, assuming some back issues don't flare up, this is the year to get back to the game. What I'm looking for from you guys is pointers, tips, advice for somebody in that position. When I played a fair amount, keeping an honest score I could shoot in the 80s (high), but really I was a bogey golfer. Back then I was a lesson junkie and benefited from all the help. There are some pretty obvious things--play from the right tees, shorten the backswing and accept a loss of distance from age, spend lots of time on my short game, etc. For a New Year's resolution I started going to a gym, which has been a very good thing (pr'ly why I'm getting back into golf) and the trainer really emphasized low impact cardio and reps as important to the, ahem, mature guy working out. I don't want to this into a geezer health bittch (I hear too many of those to inflict one on anybody), but anything along those lines would be really helpful. Thanks. And if anybody has any ideas about what I should do with my bracket after Vanderbilt, SMU and Princeton let me down yesterday and the Cavs failed to show up against Florida tonight, I'm all ears . . . Duke's still in the hunt, of course.
  11. Good decision by Woods. I hope he didn't do any long term damage to himself over the last six weeks.
  12. Bubba has a basic problem. I'm sure he's the same guy he was before he won the Masters. But he wasn't attracting the same kind of attention then. Now he does, and he has developed with the pollsters can a high negative name recognition. His public persona has set (he got the ball rolling and it assumed, as they always do, a life of its own), and now he has to live with it. And it's harder to improve a negative persona than it is to lose a positive one. Bad Boyz do grow up, but at 35, he's a grown man already. So, there's a lot more Bubba bashing in the PGA weather forecast. Fortunately, he seems prone to generate incidents to justify it, so we can all indulge with a clear conscience. I'm not sure what I'd do if the guy suddenly started making comments like "I made this cut without Divine intervention," or "You know, there are so many doctrinal points in Christian theology that I don't understand that I think I'll just shut up and listen to my pastor."
  13. Just to stay on topic, at the end of the day (which it was), I think this was not about the competitors, but about the tournament administration. They may have sought some input from Phil, Ricky, Rory and Bernd ("you guys okay with them hitting up?" "you guys wanna keep going?"), but the call was theirs. You can fault them for wanting to finish on Sunday, you can fault them for the confusion (though everybody was under the gun), you can speculate on how the players could have gamed it. But at the end of the day (which it was), form prevailed.
  14. Rory has star power. My wife doesn't give a flip about golf and she know who he is. Me: "The Irish kid won." Her: "You mean Rory?" Me: "How'd you know his name?" Her: "Somebody at school told me." This is the woman who, when I mentioned last week that it would be interesting to see how Tiger would do over the weekend, says: "Is Tiger Woods still playing golf?" Me: "Er, yeah. He's not dead." Of course, she and her friends all belong to the 'Erin should have used more club' party. As long as Rory keeps winning and treats his Mum right, they'll be fans. More importantly, they'll smile benignly on their retired husbands getting out of the house and playing golf.
  15. I think you nailed it. This is why you have to give the Committee (Rules term), tournament administration, the classroom teacher, the unit commander, the front line supervisor, whatever, a great deal of authority and discretion in handling situations as they arise.
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