Costco and Titleist Tangle Over Golf Ball Patents
San Diego – Costco is preemptively suing Acushnet Holdings, maker of the popular Titleist golf ball. Costco is seeking a judge’s ruling that Costco’s brand new line of Kirkland Signature golf balls do not violate any of Acushnet’s patents.
In 2016, Costco released its now famous Kirkland Signature golf ball. As part of the Kirkland Signature series, the golf balls were advertised as living up to the brand’s quality pledge that they, “must be equal to or better than the national brands, and must offer a savings to our members”. Costco’s new golf balls drew favorable attention from consumers almost immediately. In a blind quality test conducted by mygolfspy.com, the Costco ball either equaled or exceeded performance of the “number 1 ball in golf,” the Titleist 1, in all measurable categories.
Furthermore, the price of two dozen Kirkland Signature balls is about $15, compared to $56 for the Titleist 1. The average price of a golf ball in the United States is about $3.50 per ball. The Kirkland series sell for roughly $1.15 per ball. Costco’s golf balls sold so quickly, they removed the item from their website at the end of 2016 because they had run out of stock.
After the run on the market for Kirkland Signature golf balls, Acushnet sent Costco a threatening letter. In the letter, Acushnet accused Costco of both false advertising and violating 11 of Acushnet’s golf ball patents. As to the patents, they include the methods of manufacturing the ball all the way down to the design of the dimples on the ball.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Dean Snell, a former Titleist ball designer said, “If you look at the amount of patents filed everyday versus the number of golf balls actually made, it’s a ridiculous number.” Acushnet currently holds more than 2,500 patents.
Costco’s lawyers responded to the claims of false advertising by pointing to several testimonials from golfers and tests conducted by industry experts. The lawsuit states, “Many individual golfers and golf ball testers and experts have used and/or tested the KS ball and concluded that it is at least comparable to balls sold by other leading national brands, including Acushnet.”
Costco is scheduled to have more golf balls for sale in warehouses in April of 2017, but are only being offered “as supplies last.”