On Sept. 12, 2017, on the eve of TaylorMade’s launch of their P790 irons, Parsons Xtreme Golf filed suit in federal court in Arizona against their competitor, alleging the California-based company of infringing on a variety of PXG patents related to the design of their hollow-body irons.
More than a year later, that suit remains ongoing. The P790 irons launched, and they’ve sold very well. TaylorMade has introduced a version of the irons with a black coating, and they’ve introduced the P790 Ultimate Driving Iron. PXG’s effort to halt the P790’s sale at retail was unsuccessful, not only in suing TaylorMade but also in suing Dick’s Sporting Goods and Worldwide Golf Shops to bar them from selling the irons to consumers. (Those separate lawsuits are also still in court.) However, this suit was a line in the sand for Dr. Bob Parsons’ company, and the two manufacturers have continued to spar in court over the suit. Filing after filing. Billable hour after billable hour. The lawyers no doubt have won, but it’s unclear which litigant will ultimately win.
More than a year into the suit, the litigants are turning toward Japan for answers.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]
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After filings and letters and hearings and phone calls, the two companies agreed to write what’s referred to as letters rogatory. In plain speak, a letters rogatory is a formal request made through a foreign court with the aim of obtaining of information or evidence from a specified person within the jurisdiction of that court. In this case, PXG and TaylorMade are looking for information relating to several iron sets Yamaha made in Japan, including the 2005 release, the inpresX 410V, and the 2007 release, the inpresX 425V. TaylorMade claims these irons sets are what’s called “invalidating prior art” for PXG’s patent claims, suggesting the design is materially similar to the patents PXG was granted and now claims have been infringed upon by the P790 design.
In effect, TaylorMade is looking to Yamaha’s Japanese-made clubs to suggest what PXG has patents for in the United States had already been done elsewhere, and therefore, the patents are invalid in the United States to protect intellectual property PXG doesn’t really have.
TaylorMade seeks information regarding the sales dates of these two irons sets, looking at catalogs from the time, as well physical samples of the two clubs in question. In addition, TaylorMade is asking Yamaha, which has said it’s willing to cooperate with the letters rogatory, to complete a 167-item questionnaire to validate all of the information they’re seeking. TaylorMade hopes Yamaha will certify samples of the clubs they’re sending to Japan for the company’s analysis.
The irons have a hollow-body construction of sorts, with tungsten weighting to drive down the center of gravity. They do not appear to have foam in them, which is also a material part of the design.
Where all of this leads from here is unclear, but there’s no doubt more to come.