Clash of the Titans

By Adam BarrDecember 24, 2008, 5:00 pm
While Callaway is opening a big present, Titleist is opening a new front in the golf ball patent wars.
 
Delivered with a bow Tuesday was Callaways gift, a ruling by a federal appeals court upholding an order compelling Titleist to stop U.S. sales of models of its Pro V1 golf balls that violated patents held by Callaway. But Titleist continues to insist that it will eventually prevail in the suit, which began in 2006 and turned dramatically in November, when Callaway won the order to stop Pro V1 sales.
 
But Acushnet Co., Titleists parent (which also owns the Cobra and FootJoy golf brands), fears no fallout from the decision. The company says that since September, it has been making Pro V1 balls with manufacturing methods that do not violate the patents involved in the lawsuit. Also, even newer Pro V1 models are due out in the first quarter of 2009.
 
'This decision will not interfere with Titleists ability to continue to manufacture, distribute and sell Pro V1 golf balls, said Joe Nauman, executive vice president, corporate and legal of Acushnet. Acushnet does not believe that the injunction order requires Acushnet to recall any Pro V1 golf balls from retailers, or that retailers are required to return any golf balls to Acushnet. However, Acushnet is prepared to accept returns of non-converted retail inventory if requested by retailers.
 
By non-converted, Nauman meant balls that had been made with the old manufacturing methods, as opposed to the new way. A limited number of non-converted balls may still be on retailers shelves in 2009, a company statement said. (Converted balls can be identified by a small black or red circular marking or sticker on dozen boxes and sleeves, Acushnet says.)
 
But Callaway wants to make sure no old balls are still available.
 
Callaway Golf believes it is time for Acushnet to accept its losses in court and get on with the task of helping retailers clean up their inventories over the next week, said Steve McCracken, senior executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Callaway.
 
The case, Callaway Golf Co. v. Acushnet Co., filed in 2006, arose from Callaways contention that Titleists Pro V1 balls infringed on a number of golf ball patents. After a December 2007 trial, the jury found all but one of Callaways patent claims to be valid. Callaway owns the patents through its ownership of the Spalding family of golf brands. Spalding filed for the patents in 1999 and 2001; they were granted in 2001 and 2003.
 
In November, the trial court denied Acushnets motion for new trial and granted Callaway an injunction stopping sales of the patent-violating Pro V1s in the United States as of January 1, 2009. Acushnet appealed the central merits of the case, and asked the federal appeals court to hold up the operation of the no-further-sales injunction pending the outcome of that appeal. A three-judge panel of the appeals court said no in the order that issued Tuesday. The appeal on the meat of the case ' involving the validity of the patents, and whether they should have been issued in the first place ' will continue.
 
If either party wants to continue to the next level after this appeal, the only court left is the highest ' the Supreme Court of the United States. As of Christmas Eve, neither party will predict its desire to continue should the appeal go wrong for them.
 
Beyond the exchange of legal artillery shells, some industry insiders (all speaking on condition of anonymity) see the real conflict as an effort to flatten the steeply tilted golf ball battlefield. Depending on how you measure it, and whether domestic or global, Titleist owns as much as 70 percent of the golf ball market, or at least 60 percent.
 
Callaway, which got into the business as the century turned, has worked its way into golfer consciousness by focusing on brand-building and innovation ' all the while chased by powerhouses Nike and Bridgestone, both of whom have similar goals. Still, neither Callaway nor those competitors has been able to displace Titleist, even though some of the chasers have at times managed to push their market share into double-digit percentages.
 
The patent conflict may be the best example of the best offense being a good defense. A bedrock principle of patent law is that a holder of intellectual property must defend it thoroughly, not selectively ' otherwise, the holder could lose or suffer diminishment of those hard-won rights. Callaway no doubt concluded it had no choice but to defend the Spalding patents. Its defense, which has taken on all the attributes of an attack against the market leaders marquee product, may change that market ' if not so much in percentage points, then perhaps in perception. After all, if the leading players leading innovation can be found susceptible to a legal attack in a tight patent universe ' is there any room left for anyone to innovate in golf balls?
 
The golf equipment industry ' particularly its strongest brands ' has always found a way to reinvigorate its products, and therefore its brand-loyal public. How it will do so when the smoke has cleared from this battle of the titans, will be one of the big stories of 2009.
 
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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.