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Thursday, March 23, 2006
Callaway Files Lawsuit Over Patents

The legal community has been abuzz for weeks about the state of the nation's patent law (yes, some people do get excited about patent law), in the wake of the Blackberry/RIM lawsuit and settlement. The Supreme Court will also address a key patent issue next week. Some believe that the current patent system does not reward innovation, but rather allows a patent-holder to "sit" on a patent and develop it into a product, instead waiting until a company uses the technology and suing for millions. This is called patent trolling. Others believe the system works as intended, rewarding a company that had its intellectual property commandeered and used for profit.

Sports are also affected by patent law. (See Bambauer, Legal Responses to the Challenges of Sports Patents, 18 Harv. J. L. & Tech. 401). The latest battle is in golf.
    The most popular, most tour-validated and most revolutionary ball in the history of golf is now the principal exhibit in a lawsuit involving golf's two largest companies.

    On Thursday, Callaway Golf filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Delaware against Acushnet, alleging that Acushnet's Titleist Pro V1 line of golf balls infringes on four or more golf ball patents owned by Callaway. The lawsuit, says Callaway spokesman Larry Dorman, was filed "only after repeated attempts to negotiate a settlement failed." He would not specify how long the companies were negotiating, other than to say "quite a while."
(ESPN). The issue in this case is different from the Blackberry case. Callaway acquired a number of patents when it purchased Top-Flite from bankruptcy in 2003, including several that dealt with "the construction of a multilayer ball with a solid core and a polyurethane cover." Now, the engineer that developed that patented technology is at Acushnet and Callaway claims he has used the technology to develop the Pro V1 golf ball. Acushnet responds that the engineer has developed new technology, that does not infringe on the existing patents. The outcome of the dispute, which may require a lengthy trial, could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.


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