In the News Boston Herald

Golf Shoe Cleat Maker Teed-Off by Court Ruling

A federal court jury yesterday stunned MacNeill Engineering Co., a maker of golf shoe cleats, rejecting the Marlboro company's claim that a rival's cleat-locking mechanism infringed its patent.

"We were shocked," said Harris MacNeill, company president. A jury sided with Trisport Ltd., a British company that supplies cleats to Fairhaven-based Acushnet Co.'s FootJoy Worldwide unit.

MacNeill sued Trisport in federal court in Boston in October 1998, alleging that the British company had used MacNeill technology in its "Fast Twist" system that fastens cleats to shoes.

Though a verdict in MacNeill's favor could have led FootJoy to pull its golf shoes off of retailers shelves, Tim Murphy, a FootJoy senior product manager, said: "Our feeling is that never would have happened."

"That impression was trying to be created," Murphy said.

"Perception is very powerful. We're happy Trisport was vindicated."

Murphy said the jury ruled that MacNeill failed to prove that Trisport had infringed on its patent.

FootJoy will adopt the Trisport system for all its golf shoes this year, the company said.

MacNeill, which plans an appeal, blamed the defeat on the judge's "arbitrary ruling" in instructing the jury, as well what he said was the jury's limited technical and golf industry expertise.

"Our attorneys were totally outraged with what (the judge) did," MacNeill said. "I think that will be the basis of our appeal."

The jury also rejected Trisport's counterclaims against MacNeill Engineering, MacNeill said. He said the verdict will not negatively affect the family-run firm's business.

"Obviously, it disappoints us, but we charge ahead," he said.

Reprinted by permission of Boston Herald.  Copyrighted 2001 all rights reserved Boston Herald.