Court sides with Acushnet in ball patent case

Jurors in a federal court in Delaware deemed invalid the Callaway ball patents at the crux of a legal dispute with Acushnet Co., essentially ruling against Callaway’s claim that its intellectual property had been infringed.

The March 29 verdict was the latest legal outcome stemming from Callaway’s assertion that previous-generation Titleist Pro V1 golf balls had infringed on four patents owned by Callaway.

The decision comes in a re-trial that was ordered by a federal appeals court in August 2009. Jurors in the original trial issued a ruling favoring Callaway, but Acushnet, which owns the Titleist brand, appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned the initial judgment, saying in part that it was “irreconcilably inconsistent” because jurors found one patent claim invalid, but determined other similar claims were valid.

This time, the jury agreed with Acushnet, which had argued from the outset that the patents in question are invalid.

In a statement, Joe Nauman, Acushnet’s executive vice president, corporate and legal, said: “We have explained throughout this process that Acushnet independently developed the technology in question. The Titleist Pro V1 family utilizes technology from 74 Acushnet patents and was first introduced to our PGA Tour players in October 2000, well before any of the patents (in question) were issued in 2001 and 2003.”

Whether this will be the final outcome remains to be seen. Another appeal remains an option, but Callaway officials did not disclose whether they would pursue it.

“We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict, particularly in light of the fact that it is contrary to the prior victory we obtained on these same patents back in December 2007 and is inconsistent with the great weight of the evidence,” said Steve McCracken, Callaway’s chief administrative officer, in a statement. “We plan to file a motion with the court to set aside the verdict.”

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