Costco’s upstart Kirkland Signature balls (otherwise known as “the Costco golf ball”) have taken the golf world by storm. Now, the company has filed a declaratory judgment against Titleist’s parent company, Acushnet Holdings Corp.
Filing in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Costco wants the court to rule their ball doesn’t infringe on any of Titleist/Acushnet’s patent rights (in other words, that they’re not ripping off the Pro V1). Costco’s complaint indicates the suit is necessary because Titleist has hurled charges of false advertising and patent infringement their way.
Even though Costco is the party bringing suit, Acushnet is the aggressor, having sent the discount store a “threatening letter.” The letter in question reportedly alleges Costco infringes on 11 Acushnet patents. Further, the makers of the Pro V1 state Costco is engaging in false advertising by claiming the K Sigs “meet or exceed the quality standards of leading national brands.”
In bringing suit, Costco is hoping to continue selling the Kirkland Signature ball free of any encumbrances without having to do battle with major ball manufacturers…they’re also hoping to recoup attorney’s fees and the cost of the suit.
“We have asked the Court to protect our right to continue to sell our Kirkland Signature golf ball against challenges made by Acushnet under patent and advertising laws. The success of the ball with our members and the favorable comments it has received from reputable reviewers apparently have caused Acushnet to believe that our ball directly competes with the Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x balls. Our golf ball will go back on sale in early April, but supplies are limited.”
Perhaps a laughable suggestion at the outset, Costco’s four-piece urethane Kirkland Signature ball has emerged as a significant challenger to the major ball makers of the world. And at $15 per dozen, rather than the $58 the Pro V1 costs, it has shaken up the industry, to say the least.
Costco has sold out of the balls twice now and during one period of insanity before Christmas, the out-of-stock balls were actually selling for more than Pro V1s on Ebay. Reportedly, they’ll be back on shelves in short order hitting the market some time this spring.
Titleist, if you’ll remember, famously battled with Callaway starting in 2007 over golf ball design and has started to take on smaller manufacturers in recent years. While this may seem like litigation-happy behavior, as a subsidiary of the a publicly traded company, Titleist has to protect its cash cow (the Pro V1) at all costs.