Acushnet and Callaway suing each other over patent violations
Acushnet (through its Titleist brand) and Callaway are suing each other, alleging that each has violated the other’s patents on their tour level golf balls. This, after Callaway won just such a battle against Acushnet last year.
In that suit, Callaway prevailed on its claim that Titleist’s Pro V1 balls (the model known as the 2007 Pro V1) infringed on patents owned by Callaway. Acushnet is appealing that decision. Meanwhile, late in 2008, Acushnet provided a modified, clearly labeled Pro V1 that did not violate the patent, it said. Acushnet has already planned a 2009 model Pro V1 for release in February, and pros had already been working it into their games. Among other things, the 2009 model features a reformulated, more durable cover and a core that yields more yardage, Titleist said.
Now Callaway is saying that even the retooled Pro V1s, the models released for spring 2009, infringe on Callaway-owned patents. And Acushnet has fired right back, claiming that Callaway’s Tour i and Tour ix balls transgress Acushnet’s patent rights.
As with most patent suits, it will take a long time to sort out the claims. And whatever balls you have now from either company are perfectly legal under the Rules of Golf. But lest you think both companies are being overly litigious, keep in mind that in the patent world, you have to protect your rights aggressively, or you could lose them. There’s no selective enforcement of intellectual property rights. So clearly, both companies felt compelled to sue.
But it’s expensive, this litigation stuff, especially in this Brave New World of cost control and depressed economies. One wonders what protracted patent litigation might do to the competitive landscape. Titleist is far and away the leader with half of the domestic market (measured in dollars) in off-course shops. Bunched more tightly are the chasers, such as Bridgestone with nearly 17 percent (and a lot of momentum from its popular B330-RX ball over the last five months), Callaway/Top Flite at about 12 percent, Nike around 8 percent, and TaylorMade and related brands at about 6 percent.
What could happen on that leaderboard while Callaway and Titleist fight it out?
Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award
The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.
The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.
Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.
The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout
It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.
Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.
"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."
Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.
Wie takes shot at LPGA dress code in crop top
The new LPGA dress code got mixed reviews when it was announced in July, and Michelle Wie is taking full advantage of her offseason with no restrictions.
The 28-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion is keeping her game sharp while back in her home state of Hawaii, but couldn't help taking a shot at the rules while doing it, posting a photo to Instagram of her playing golf in a crop top with the caption, "Offseason = No dress code fine."
Wie isn't the first to voice her displeasure with the rules. Lexi Thompson posted a similar photo and caption to Instagram shortly after the policy was announced.