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Callaway sues rival company

In a dispute between rival golf club manufacturers, Callaway Golf is suing Orlimar and claiming patent infringement and misleading advertising.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in San Diego, seeks an injunction and monetary damages.

The two California equipment companies have been at odds since last year, when Orlimar cut into Callaway's dominance in the fairway metals market.

Orlimar officials were travelling Monday and had not seen the lawsuit. President Ed Dolinar said he would have no comment until then.

Callaway, based in Carlsbad, Calif., contends the patent infringement concerns an undercut that goes all the way around the cavity behind the back of its irons and is designed to move weight from the face of the club.

It has another patent in which the undercut goes only around the heel, toe and bottom of the iron. Callaway lawyer Steve McCracken says Orlimar's TriMetal irons infringe on this development.

"They had shown the irons in their booth in Las Vegas (in August) but they were not available," McCracken said. "We were able to obtain one within the last two weeks, slice it open, analyse it and find the violation."

The other claim in the lawsuit alleges unfair competition. Callaway contends Orlimar has been running ads on its TriMetal driver that claim the 7.5 degree loft is a favourite on tour.

McCracken said according to the Darrell Survey, which keeps track of the clubs in a player's bag, there was only one 7.5 degree driver from Orlimar put in play on the four U.S. tours last year, and 11 this year.

"By contrast, our 7.5 degree driver was put in play 1,576 times in 1998, and 52 times in the month of January," McCracken said.

Callaway protested Orlimar ads that stated more tour players were using the TriMetal -- founder Ely Callaway said the ad was based on information that was three months old. Callaway responded with the Steelhead and suggested that the Orlimar clubs had a "major design flaw."

This is the second time in as many years Callaway has begun the new year -- when new products typically are introduced -- with a lawsuit. A year ago, it sued Spalding Sports because of its "System C" and ``System T'' balls that were marketed as being the right ball for the Callaway or Taylor Made metal woods, the most popular in play at the time.

That lawsuit is finally set for trial in October.

"We have filed lawsuits against other people who infringe, whether they are small, Taiwanese knockoff artists or a big U.S. sporting goods company such as Spalding," McCracken said. "That's just our ongoing plan to protect our rights."