In late 2016, retailer Costco introduced an affordable high quality tour type golf ball under its Kirkland Signature brand. Priced at $29.99 for two-dozen golf balls, the Costco golf ball quickly sold out having grown a cult following.
The popularity of the Costco golf ball caught the attention of ACUSHNET, the company that makes the Titleist® brand golf ball. ACUSHNET sent a letter to Costco alleging false advertising and patent infringement saying that the COSTCO golf ball violated eleven ACUSHNET patents. In response, Costco filed a Declaratory Judgment against ACUSHNET in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, near COSTCO’s headquarters, asking the court to rule in its favor that there is no patent infringement and also that the eleven patents are invalid. The original complaint can be found at:
ACUSHNET is known for policing its intellectual property rights as Titleist® is one of the industry’s leading golf ball brands. However, Costco is not like ACUSHNET’s typical competition, which is mostly other sporting goods companies. In the past, ACUSHNET has been able to throw its weight around against newer start up golf ball manufacturers. Unlike most startups, COSTCO has deep pockets and has been known to litigate in the past.
ACUSHNET’s zeroing in on COSTCO may be more about COSTCO’s immediate outstanding sales numbers and the hysteria for its golf ball and less about patent infringement (the Titleist® V1 Pro golf ball sells for over $50 a dozen).