It seemed unthinkable just a few months ago that Costco and Titleist could face off in a legal dispute over golf ball patents and advertising claims… yet here we are.

David Dawsey of golf-patents.com dug up a complaint from Friday in the United States District Court in Seattle in which Costco is seeking a declaratory judgement that it is:

  1. “Not infringing any valid patent rights owned by … Acushnet” (the holding company of Titleist, FootJoy and Pinnacle).
  2. “Not engaged in any false advertising regarding the [Kirkland Signature] golf balls.”

The dispute appears to have started when Acushnet sent a threatening letter to Costco, accusing the retailer of “infringing 11 Acushnet patents based on its sale of the [Kirkland Signature] golf ball and engaging in false advertising based on its Kirkland Signature guarantee that all Kirkland Signature products ‘meet or exceed the quality standards of leading national brands.'”

The “Kirkland Signature guarantee” appears to be a major sticking point for Acushnet. According to the complaint, “Acushnet asserts that the statement is intended to indicate to a reasonable consumer that the [Kirkland Signature] golf ball is the same or of greater quality as Titleist’s Pro V1.” Costco says it has “never publicly compared the [Kirkland Signature] ball with any Titleist ball, including the Pro V1.”

More interesting than all the legal mumbo jumbo for most golfers may be this sentence:

“Even though the Costco [Kirkland Signature] golf ball has sold out, Costco plans to continue to sell the [Kirkland Signature] golf ball.”

There it is, on record, that Costco plans to continue selling the $15-per-dozen, four-piece, urethane-covered golf balls that golfers went crazy over last year.

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  1. Doesn’t anyone care that Titleist golf balls are made in the USA instead of all these import golf balls????????? And if the Titleist are too expensive, try Pinnacle, made in the same factory in Massachusetts, and I’ve found them for $15 a dozen..

    • Better check your sources, Titleist does make ProV’s over seas as well as in the United States, just as Taylormade makes its pro balls in U>S> and over seas and in the past even at the same shop that made the Kirkland ball.

  2. Everyone misses the point that yes ProV1’s, Taylormade TP5 all top line current balls are better then the Kirkland Ball, if only by small percentages of performance, and that is big to the pro or top amateurs. But the fact you can sell a top ball for $15 a dozen kills all the less then top performance balls of all manufactures,,,, Why buy NXT, E6’s. any WIlson ball if you can get a 4 piece ball for $15 or theirs for $25 or more.

    • They get the point, they are just in denial, they still think “tour issue” equipment is better and that they “need” XX-Stiff shafts tipped 2 inches and a 8.5 driver to lower their rpm’s by 10 rpms,,,,

    • That is an excellent point. I strongly believe the Titleist balls are better due to extreme R&D and extreme quality checks (now 91 checks on a ProV1 and 120 checks on the ProV1x). How much might be hard for the average player to discern. However, the less the premium balls will suffer. Finally, to the other reply, Titleist balls for the tour player are identical to Titleist balls bought at your local golf shop. Not so with some other balls…. The Chrome Soft that Mickelson plays / played is not the same ball as the one you buy at your local golf shop. Slightly different markings and different characteristics. It just looks like its the same to make everyone else think they play the same ball.

  3. Oh thoese poor titleist / acushunet people what’s the matter ? Just a little competition making you worry a little bit gee that’s to bad. Don’t worry the pros will still play your $65.00 a dozen balls. No ball is worth $5.25 a ball really now is it.

  4. Girls, girls, you’re BOTH pretty…….

    Personal preference people, if you don’t mind paying premium prices for the “premium” ball, then have at it. If you want to save yourself a few shekels by buying what you consider a good performing ball for 1/3 of the price, great. Honestly, grown a$$ men crying that someone doesn’t share their enthusiasm for a brand name, its almost as bad as arguing about the giant sky fairy.

    I’ve been using the Dunlop NZ9-V3 lately, a £9 a dozen, three piece ball and they perform every bit as well as the Srixon AD333 (which I suspect are exactly the same ball since Dunlop and Srixon are both owned by Sumitoyo), the Callaway Supersoft or the Titleist NXT Tour. If spring ever arrives I’m planning on buying a box of Dunlops “premium” offering, the DP1-3V which is supposedly their Z-Star/Pro V1/Chrome equivalent.

    And yet……I can’t help that nagging doubt about them that I feel when one of my playing partners knocks their major OEM ball past me off the tee when I feel I have hit a good one! That’s the power of saturation advertising, I suppose.

    This all boils down to what you think of your own game, do you think that it’s worth paying $4 a ball for the two or three times in a round that you might just hit the ball well enough to notice the very slight performance difference over a $1 challenger.

  5. If you were to hand these Kirkland balls without a brand on them and told all the Titleist fans it was the new Pro-V1 “platinum” and that it was their best yet. They would go out and scream how great it is and that nothing comes close.

  6. Golf balls from Costco great, If I was working in Costco’s purchasing department I would get together with Golfworks and start selling their products. Irons, Fairways, Drivers even their putters…they have patents on a lot of their stuff and can compete with the big boys at half the cost or less. Be a big win/win for both of them.

      • There can be no greater improvement in today’s game than having anyone who yells either “Bababooey” or “Get in the hole” after a shot on tour immediately removed from the premises. C’mon kids…how about a little creativity. Been hearing both for decades.

    • You don’t understand which side you should be on. You are rooting for the 120 Billion dollar a year company over the 1 Billion dollar a year company. You are rooting for major corporate over small mom and pop. This is like Wal Mart moving into the neighborhood and taking out your corner shop. It’s OK if you are on that side, but at least know the facts. If you just like everything cheap. That is a philosophy.

      • Caddy, NEITHER company can be called “mom AND pops” so that philosophy goes out the window. If you buy your golf equipment other than at the golf course, you are not following your own argument. And in addition to what Brian said so accurately, I am for your average being Joe able to buy quality equipment without the mark up. I play these Kirkland golf balls and find their performance to suit my needs, I am financially able to buy Pro-V1 without a problem, but I don’t get off on labels nor care to impress anyone, too old for that.

  7. Titleist is simply following protocol as the #1 brand by filing a lawsuit. They are covering bases. The Costco guarantee does seem to indicate its as good or better than the leading brands which, nearly assuredly cannot be proven in serious robotic testing. Average player testing may indicate the balls are similar but there is a reason the “robots” on tour play a Titleist (or other leading brand)…. because they are BETTER. Costco will pay someone to produce a ball. The ball will be decent. It will never be as good as a Titleist.

    • So “serious” robotic testing cannot prove if one ball is better than another, but you arrive at the conclusion that Titleist balls are better just because the pros play them? I can see critical thinking is not your strong suit.

      • To a 25 handicap chopper, all balls are the same. In that case, Costco is correct. However, Titleist will prove to have the best and tightest tolerances on premium tour quality golf balls. I saw one fellow who said the Kirkland was WAY BETTER than Titleist. This was also the same fellow who said NO GOLF BALL IS WORTH $48 dz. In short, he has an issue with price that colors his opinion of golf balls. I have an issue with technology, R&D, and quality control which colors mine.

          • I have faith in the free market and R&D. They continue to slightly improve their ball every other year despite no changes to the USGA rules on golf balls. I firmly believe Titleist will be able to demonstrate premium ball superiority through robotic data. You don’t get hundreds and thousands of patents on golf balls because they are all the same and nothing matters.

              • I’m not sure I stated something specific as fact. What would that be? Titleist is very tight with robotic testing data. When they go to court I think you will see the data demonstrates a difference. I believe in R&D, technological patents, material differences, quality control checks and validation at the highest levels of play. Have you ever seen the ball counts at the US Amateur, US Junior, Girls Junior, Pub Links etc..? Titleist overwhelms all other brands combined. Is this because they are being paid? NO. This is because the players believe there is a difference. They are probably good enough to tell. It is not the lack of other brands availability. It is real and perceived difference. As stated, I believe the Titleist data will demonstrate they have superior golf balls.

        • Caddy I guess you don’t understand who Costco is buying the balls from. They are buying the balls from a ball manufacturer who has already done the testing and R & D. Some individuals like yourself spout off without really doing any research what so ever a so called know it all but actually know’s very little. Have a great day caddy and that is a laugher.

          • Every ball company who actually makes balls does some research and performs some quality control checks. I have confidence in Titleist having the best. All patents are different. That’s why they are patents. Titleist has 91 quality checks on a ProV1 and 120 quality checks on a Pro1x. Their goal for over 80 years has been goal to produce the most consistent golf ball in golf. Better players can more easily judge consistency. Better players more often choose Titleist. I believe the proof is in the pudding. All ball companies are not equal. There is a reason Wal Greens sold the Po-Do… it was cheap. It was cheap for a reason. There were patents and quality checks… just not as good and not as many. Your comment exposes your foolish line of thinking. Your rudeness is typical and it demonstrates who really lacks knowledge and the ability to put a cohesive argument together.

          • All balls have some form of technology and some form of quality control. I’m banking on the fact neither is like Titleist… or even close. WalGreens sold the Po-Do because it was cheap. The ball had patents and was produced at a factory that utilized some form of quality control. That does not mean the balls were in any way comparable to a Titleist. I guess the Po-Do appeared round and had dimples. Before you say someone is “spout(ing) off without really doing any research what so ever a so called know it all but actually know’s very little.” you should consider your stance. You have demonstrated you know very little about R&D, patents, materials, and quality control. All things are not equal.

  8. While I don’t blame titleist for doing whatever they have to do in order to protect their market share and pricing, I do fear they may be fighting a losing battle. Note that they didn’t sue costco for patent infringement… They sent a letter, probably hoping it would cause costco to pause. Clearly from Costco reaction that did not work. Costco never said there ball was better than any titleist product, only talksd about general quality which is very difficult to attack on legal grounds. If costco can produce and sell balls this isn’t likely to end well for the incumbent ball companies. Costco may very well use the golf ball as a break even product to attract more high income customers like us from wrx!!

    • Costco can claim it’s balls are better than Titleists all it wants to. I can make golf balls from rubber bands and duct tape and advertise that they are better than Titleists. “Better” is a value judgement, not a quantifiable claim. Acushnet has no legal grounds for a suit here, they are just trying to bully Costco.

      • There are tests that do show that they are similar and if not better. It’s not just a value proposition at 1/3 the price, it’s also a performance proposition. If you can’t quantify “better”, then you can’t say the Pro Vs are better either. Actually there are performance characteristics that are quantifiable so not sure where this is coming from.

        • There are tests… robotic. Player data by choppers does not demonstrate the balls are the same. It demonstrates the players cannot tell the difference based on their ability level and lack of ability to hit it the same way twice. If its not hit the same way, the result is not comparable.

  9. The price on the new batch coming to Costco’s stores will be interesting-remember, Costco strives to do no worse than breakeven on product sales after all related costs and their profit comes from the annual membership fees collected minus those related costs (just like the other membership clubs).

    Whole thing immaterial to me-I’m 70 and have fallen in love with the new srixon Q Star Tour that is hitting the shelves this month. With my s-l-o-w-e-r swing speed, it is longer off the driver than either Pro V.

  10. This is a joke right? Costco can only “sell” these as they have access to over runs and/or inventory from golf ball manufacturers that they want to get rid of. I see this as a “spot” buy from time to time and not a normal inventory item that they will sell. Plus, when you compare to the “leading” brand, its CLEARER poking at Titleist. No idea why you would want to do that?

    • You maybe wrong here, if Costco is letting out a contract for millions of golf balls there will be more then one manufacturer in the Asian world that will be able to and gladly supply. The sticking point is a Urethane cover ball….as has been mentioned many times the process/machines used to apply that Urethane cover are few and far between, but that problem may go away if Costco is letting out a contract that pays enough.

    • That’s not how the costco supply chain works. There are many products that are basically tailored for and made for Costco. If you want to know just go to a costco and you will see. Even the TVs are made for costco versions.

  11. Americans are the greatest suckers on earth for believing advertising. The companies know it and that’s why you have the craziest prices on commercial time. That is why Titleist is the biggest selling ball, not because it’s “the best”, simply because the US golfers believe the rubbish they tell you. Is it a bad ball?, no, but there are plenty of balls out there for half the price which are JUST AS GOOD. 40 cents to make a ball and they retail it at $5-6…no thanks.

      • Americans are suckers for advertising, yet Japan has by far the most expensive golf equipment on the planet. So, those $4k/set irons are 4x better than anything on the US market? You should have called yourself Mr Brexit instead of Mr Miura.

  12. I think Acushnet better be careful what they wish for. When golf manufacturers have to start backing up their marketing claims with facts, like “gain 20 yards” with this ball, or this club, they might be committing marketing suicide.

  13. Do you really think Acushnet are afraid the impact of Kirkland on Titleist balls to any significant degree – get real

    Titleist were the worlds best selling ball long before Kirkland came into exist into existance, and they will be long after they are gone, they couldn’t even supply the limited market demand last year…

    Callaway and Bridgestone make the equal of any Titleist ball, yet they are still world number 1

    It amazes me how many on Golfwrx are anti Titleist ball, anti all things TM, anti game improvement irons….I could go on

    • That might be true if Titleist were going against another name brand golf company that dealt in such a niche market. We’re talking Costco that deals with way more than golf. They have literally got far greater buying power than Acushnet because their reach extends beyond golf balls. If Costco makes a ball that gives tour performance and is built to tour quality at the cost of low end, entry level 2pc balls, you better believe that ALL golf company’s would feel the pressure. Costco/Kirkland signature has such a good return policy and guarantee of quality that it’s ridiculous to think that the niche golf market wouldn’t be threatened. If Acushnet really weren’t interested, they wouldn’t have started anything. Costco has found the winning formula to get the customers to buy their product. They looked at what was so appealing about $40+ golf balls, found something comparable and then delivered it to the customer at warehouse rates. Then they decided to take a stab at it and it was ridiculously successful. Costco is not driven or regulated by anything PGA. They don’t have any risk of backlash or the like from any governing golf body, with the exception of the conforming products list. And last I saw, Kirkland Signature balls was on that list of conforming products. The only way for golf to get Costco to increase their price is to charge a “fee” to get on the conforming list. But that would in turn cause all golf companies to have to raise their prices. I think it’s great what Costco is doing and it’s nice that a company so large is able to deliver something to consumers that will definitely be in demand as long as the sport is still around. Costco did right to leave behind the golf clubs and stick to less customized products such as the golf ball and golf accessories. I hate paying any more than $25 a doz and am always looking for deals on any premium ball (which I have found a consistent one). As much as I like Titleist golf balls, I do think we pay more for the name rather than the product or technology. I mean what other areas can they really “improve” on that could be considered anything but marginal at best?

      • That sums it up pretty perfectly. If Callaway and Bridgestone made “the equal of any Titleist ball” and started selling it at a third of the price, Titleist wouldn’t still be holding onto the world #1 title without making a serious price adjustment. That is, of course, assuming that most golfers aren’t complete morons.

    • jgpl001, I guess you don’t know that the bulk of their revenue isn’t from those who buy Pro V1/X’s, but low end and Pinnacle. So when you can buy a better ball for the same or lower price point of those bottom tier balls, people will switch.

      No different than the Cally gloves they sell. I love the FJ StaSof, but I can get a 3 pack for $6 less than 1 FJ at GT.

    • Your right if you only talk about ProV balls, but Titleist sells a ton of lesser balls that will be in deep trouble if Costco, or anyone, can sell a quality ball for less then Titleist sells its lesser balls. Why would anyone pay $29 a dozen for a 2 piece ball or a 3 piece harder cover ball if they could get a quality ball for less…

  14. I hope Costco wins. They never made any claims whatsoever about the Pro V. Titleist is picking a fight with the wrong competitor. They should look inwards at their pricing model and realise the unavoidable truth that it’s far out of line with reality, especially in a declining sport that has been far too expensive for far too long.

  15. Not only Titleist but every golf ball seller out there has to be scared..best they can do is offer free balls or better prices, which a lot of them are doing right now. Also you can imagine the R&A up tick to make better balls then who, Costco. Costco has a chance to take an enormous share of the amateur hackers ball market…and bring in a few new million paid members to their stores and on line site. How much is it worth to gain 2 million members at a minimum of $50 each, plus the chance they may spend a lot more money then the $30 for golf balls…..big win for Costco, not bad for average Joe golfer either

  16. i find it funny that Costco is just a large major retailer. In Costco’s world golf balls are just another item on their shelves, but it’s a threat that can take down a top company in the golf world. This is 100% about protecting margins.

  17. let’s not misrepresent the facts. They said they would still sell the balls, you added the part about it still being $15 a doz. The balls may in fact still be sold, but the price point could change with all the commotion. Titleist’s actions are kind of two fold. In one aspect they’re protecting their market share in golf balls, but the second aspect is by doing so, they are somewhat admitting that kirkland signature balls are a threat and possibly comparable in quality and performance. Big companies only respond to legitimate threats when it comes to issues like this.

    • And no guarantee it will be the same ball. Maybe it will be, or maybe it will be something close, but different. Either way, at $15/dozen no reason to buy $45+/doz “big name” brands.

  18. Well they have a point. Only golf sites did the ‘tests’ calling K-Sigs ProV1 killers. Haven’t seen an ad from Costco anywhere that says the ball outperforms any other ball by name.

    Oh and Costco? CAN YOU PLEASE SELL THESE GOLF BALLS IN CANADA!!!

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