A little over a year ago, we discussed how Acushnet, the company that owns brands like Titleist and FootJoy in the golf gear industries, had sued I Made Bogey, a company that created parody golf gear. Crude parodies, at that, with the headlining product being a hat styled after Titleist’s famous golf hat that read “Titties” instead of “Titleist.” While Acushnet had brought claims of trademark infringement and dilution, we noted at the time both that these claims were fairly specious — the parody only works in all of this if you are clear on the difference between golf’s waspy culture and I Made Bogey’s sophmoric take on it — and that the case would almost certainly be settled out of court. It’s not like I Made Bogey had the same gobs of money to throw at the case as Acushnet, after all.
Well, it seems like this might be turning into a game of litigious whac-a-mole, as Acushnet has now sued another company pulling the exact same parody and joke, and a whole bunch more.
On Friday, Acushnet set its sights on an Australian company called Golf Gods that is apparently making the same joke. The company’s website boasts a diverse inventory of accessories and apparel — including polo shirts patterned with flamingos or decorated with a cartoon figure breaking his club over his knee — but Acushnet wants punitive damages and an injunction over the line similar to its Titleist products.
The complaint details all of the supposed cases of infringement in question, but one of them is the exact same “Titties” hat that I Made Bogey had been selling. Alongside that one, Acushnet claims that various other parody lines of clothing and apparel also represent trademark infringement and dilution.
In addition to its cursive logo, Acushnet says Golf Gods has been infringing its protected marks “#1 Ball in Golf,” “Pro V1” and “Footjoy.”
The latter company’s products use the marks “#1 Sluttiest Ball in Golf,” “Hoe V1” and “Footjob.”
So let’s just make a couple of things clear. First, these jokes mostly suck. This kind of lazy parody built on offense is mostly stupid, save for its unique value in poking fun at golf culture. Even there, they barely do the job. Second, tastefulness is not in question when it comes to trademark concerns. For infringement, there needs to be a risk of customer confusion between the companies putting forth these products. That, as was the case with I Made Bogey, is of no concern here. The only value in Golf Gods products rests solely on everyone being in on the joke, no matter how the products themselves are stylized.
As for dilution, Acushnet would have to show that these parody products somehow harm the Titleist reputation or steal some of its fame. Again, such claims are laughable. These jokes again only work because Titleist is so famous, well known, and respected. That’s the entire point.
As was the case the last go around, a settlement is somewhat likely. The one wrinkle is that Golf Gods is an Australian company. Given that the parody company isn’t talking about the suit at all, however, indicates that it’s taking this seriously. So, again, probably a settlement coming for what is clear parody that ought to be protected.