Callaway settles one ball suit, faces another

A week after settling a ball patent infringement suit filed against it by Bridgestone, Callaway Golf Co. finds itself on the legal defensive again.

Dunlop Slazenger Group Americas Oct. 15 filed a federal suit in Delaware against Callaway, alleging it used Greenville, S.C.-based DSGA’s “proprietary techniques and confidential golf ball recipes and formulations” to enter the golf ball market, according to a DSGA statement.

The culmination of an investigation over the past year, the suit states that DSGA has secured evidence that Callaway has “obtained and used DSGA’s operating procedures, including confidential and proprietary information used to develop and manufacture DSGA golf balls.” The suit cites seven counts of unfair competition, including misappropriation of trade secrets, false advertising and unjust enrichment.

“This is not really a patent issue as opposed to the proprietary techniques and confidential information used . . . Essentially, we are seeking damages and profit on every golf ball Callaway has made since entering the golf ball marketplace since February 2000,” said Edward Hughes, DSGA’s vice president of marketing.

Callaway officials had not yet seen the suit at press time, but chief spokesman Larry Dorman said: “We haven’t copied Maxfli’s golf ball or manufacturing processes. And we look forward to proving that in court.”

On Oct. 9, Callaway announced it had signed a golf ball patent license agreement permitting it to use a number of Bridgestone Sports’ three-piece ball patents worldwide. The agreement resolved a complaint filed in July 2000 in which Bridgestone alleged that the Callaway Rule 35 ball infringed on four of Bridgestone’s U.S. patents, covering various technologies relating to golf ball design, including solid golf balls.

Bridgestone said it was approached by Callaway – prior to the Rule 35 launch in February – seeking a compromise to avoid infringement of its patents. Though no such agreement was reached, Callaway proceeded with its ball introduction, according to the statement.

Callaway denied any infringement and filed a counter suit Sept. 12, 2000, alleging that Bridgestone took legal action against Callaway to stifle competition.


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