Saturday, December 22, 2007

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Sue

When everyone is making money there isn’t time to try to take down the competition. With shrinking margins, stagnate revenues and tougher competition, if you can’t innovate your way to profitability, the only choice is to sue.

Take the recent court cases brought by Callaway against Titleist, Bridgestone against Titleist and DogLeg Right against TaylorMade. All are suing each other because of supposed patent infringements.

In the case of DogLeg Right, they accuse TaylorMade of violating two patents that “...cover technology that allows the user to adjust the center of gravity of the clubhead in up to three dimensions in order to produce golf ball trajectories varying from high to low fades, high to low draws, and high to low straight shots.” The supposed clubs that violate these patents are TaylorMade’s r7 Quad driver, TaylorMade r7 425 Quad driver, and TaylorMade r7 CGB Max driver and fairway woods.

A recent court victory was awarded to Callaway over Acushnet, makers of the top-selling golf ball the Titleist Pro V1. The jury awarded Callaway a victory on “….the construction of a multilayer ball with a solid core and a polyurethane cover that are used in the Titleist Pro V1 ball.” Callaway acquired the patents in 2003 when it purchased Top-Flite Golf following the bankruptcy of parent Spalding Sports Worldwide.

Acushnet was recently involved in another golf ball case that has been settled out-of-court with Bridgestone Sports Co. Ltd., resolving a 2 1/2-year ball patent infringement suit. Acushnet will be required to pay Bridgestone on-going royalties for use of an undisclosed number of Bridgestone patents.

Lawsuits are part of the business landscape and suing your competition is generally the chosen path, but for the major golf businesses, if they spent more time on innovation and growing the game and less on legal court fights, maybe their businesses would perform better.

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