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Callaway sues TaylorMade on golf patents

August 10, 2007|Molly Selvin | Times Staff Writer

Their golf clubs regularly face off on the green, and now two of the biggest golf equipment manufacturers are facing off in court over another kind of green.

Callaway Golf Co. has filed two suits accusing TaylorMade Golf Co. of violating its patents on three golf clubs and a ball-covering material.

The maker of Big Bertha and Steelhead brand clubs is seeking monetary damages and an order that all the infringing TaylorMade products be destroyed. The company also wants an order permanently blocking TaylorMade from using the disputed technology.

The suits contend that the patent violations have caused Callaway "irreparable injury," according to court documents.

Since the introduction of its oversize Big Bertha driver in 1991, Carlsbad, Calif.-based Callaway has led an arms race among professional golfers and weekend duffers. The company, whose sales topped $1.02 billion last year, sells a line of Big Bertha irons and drivers as well as the full range of golf clubs, balls and other equipment.

TaylorMade, a unit of Adidas Group, also is headquartered in Carlsbad and its products are used by a number of professional golfers.

The TaylorMade patents targeted in these suits include a polyurethane golf ball cover that produces a softer feel and increased ball spin along with a club head used for longer drives, court documents show.

A Callaway representative declined to comment on the lawsuits.

TaylorMade spokesman Scott Leightman said: "We feel good about our case against their allegations. . . . There are two sides to the story." TaylorMade executives believe "many currently available Callaway drivers infringe on several TaylorMade patents covering industry-leading metal wood technologies," Leightman said, adding that the company had not gone to court against Callaway.

Callaway has pursued other competitors over alleged patent infringement in the past. Separate lawsuits filed in 2006 and earlier this year against Acushnet Co., maker of the Titleist and Cobra brand drivers, are pending.

One of the two lawsuits against TaylorMade was filed Saturday in U.S. District Court in Marshall, Texas, a jurisdiction that patent lawyers say is often friendly to plaintiffs in such cases. The other suit, in which Callaway is seeking relief from patent-infringement claims that TaylorMade might assert against it, was filed Monday in federal court in San Diego.

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molly.selvin@latimes.com

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