Costco Wholesale Corp. isn’t making friends in the golf-ball business.
The discount retailer, which improbably caused a frenzy in the golf world when it started selling low-priced but well-reviewed balls last year, filed a lawsuit against the parent company for Titleist, maker of the self-proclaimed “number one ball in golf.”
In a complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Costco preemptively asked the court for a declaratory judgment defending its business practices. The retailer said that the lawsuit was necessary because Acushnet Holdings Corp., which owns Titleist, accused Costco in a “threatening letter” of violating its patent rights and engaging in false advertising.
Costco, which has no history of making golf balls, bought the Kirkland Signature balls from a company called Nassau Golf, which also manufactures balls for TaylorMade, a major equipment company. An official at Nassau’s ball factory in South Korea told the Wall Street Journal in January that there was no regular supply chain to Costco, which has since removed the listing for the balls from its website. Costco says in the complaint it plans to sell the balls again in the future.
In Costco, the retail giant, Titelist faces an altogether different opponent. “This is a duel between 800-pound gorillas,” said Adam Beach, owner of an equipment review website called MyGolfSpy, which bills itself as the Consumer Reports of golf. “Titleist has been viewed by many in the industry as kind of a bully. This time, they’ve run up against a bigger bully than they’ve ever gone up against before.”
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