(CN) – Golf-ball maker Acushnet won a major victory over Callaway Golf in a patent dispute targeting four Titleist golf balls. The Federal Circuit said Callaway’s “dual-core” balls may have been anticipated by existing patent claims.
The court overturned a ruling for Callaway on the anticipation claim and cleared the path for a new trial on Acushnet’s claim that the patents were obvious.
The issue of obviousness went to trial, and a jury upheld all but one dependent claim as valid.
Callaway’s patents covered “dual personality” or “dual core” balls that were hard enough to travel far, but soft enough to retain other desirable characteristics such as spin control. Each of Callaway’s patents claims a golf ball with a core, a softer inner cover and a harder outer layer made of polyurethane.
Callaway asserted that Acushnet’s Titleist Pro V1, Pro V1* and Pro V1x golf balls violated its patents. Acushnet acknowledged that the balls infringed on some of the patent claims, but argued that an earlier patent, called the Nesbitt patent, disclosed the same type of three-piece golf ball that Callaway later invented.
U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson in Delaware ruled for Callaway on the anticipation claim. She also denied Acushnet’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on the eight claims the jury upheld as valid.
The Federal Circuit agreed that Acushnet wasn’t entitled to judgment on the obviousness claims, but it nonetheless vacated Robinson’s ruling for Callaway, citing “irreconcilably inconsistent” jury verdicts.
As for anticipation, the federal appeals court said Acushnet raised the legitimate question of whether the Nesbitt patent anticipated Callaway’s dual-core balls.
The court reversed and vacated the rulings for Callaway and remanded for a new trial on obviousness.