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Izzo Golf, Inc. v. King Par Golf

July 26, 2006

IZZO GOLF, INC., F/K/A DANCORP INVESTORS, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
KING PAR GOLF INCORPORATED D/B/A KNIGHT GOLF COMPANY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This is an action alleging the infringement of a patent for a "dual strap carrying system for golf bags". More specifically, plaintiff Izzo Golf, Inc. ("plaintiff"), the maker of the Izzo strap system for golf bags, alleges that defendant King Par Golf, Inc. ("defendant"), a competing manufacturer of golf bags, has infringed its patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,042,704 ("the patent"). Now before the Court is the issue of claim construction. The Court's construction of the disputed terms is set forth below.

BACKGROUND

The subject invention is a carrying-strap system for golf bags. According to the patent, a "typical golf bag" has a single strap [which] extends from an upper rim of the golf bag to a mid-point on the bag. The golfer or caddy . . . carries such bag by inserting one arm through the strap so that the strap extends across one shoulder thus supporting the bag for travel . . . . A disadvantage to this system has long been present . . . . [resulting] from the fact that the entire weight of the golf clubs and bag, which may typically be on the order of twenty to twenty-eight pounds, strains the muscles of the neck and shoulders unduly and further causes muscular strain resulting from the imbalanced nature of this method of carriage.

Patent 5,042,704, "Background of the Invention". Plaintiff's invention purportedly corrects this problem by using a dual-strap design to more evenly distribute the weight of the bag across both shoulders of the wearer. Claim 1 of the patent states, in relevant part:

In a golf bag adapted to receive a set of golf clubs . . . said golf bag being in the form of an elongated tube including a surrounding sidewall, a closed end and an open end whereby the shafts of said golf clubs may be longitudinally inserted into said golf bag through the open end . . . the improvement comprising a strap assembly adapted to permit a person to carry said golf bag on either or both shoulders, said strap assembly including a single strap comprising a first strap portion including a first central pad, a first strap portion first end attached on one end of said first central pad and a first strap portion second end attached on another end of said first central pad whereby said first strap portion has a first strap first end secured to said golf bag at a first location proximate said open end and a first strap portion second end secured to said golf bag at a second location axially spaced from the first location so that said first strap portion defines a first strap portion opening, and including a second strap portion including a second central pad, a second strap portion first end attached on one end of said second central pad and a second strap portion second end attached on another end of said second central pad whereby said second strap portion has a second strap portion first end secured to said golf bag proximate the second location and having a second strap portion second end secured to said golf bag at a third location axially spaced from the second location between the second location and said closed end to define a second strap portion opening, said first and second strap portions being sized so that one arm of the person can be inserted through the first strap portion opening and another arm of the person can be inserted through the second strap portion opening whereby said golf bag may be supported by said first strap portion extending across one shoulder of the person and by said second strap portion extending across another shoulder of the person.

Patent No. 5, 042, 704, Claim 1. Claim 8 of the patent states, in relevant part:

A golf bag . . . comprising: an elongated tubular body having a longitudinal axis and including a surrounding sidewall, a closed end and an open end such that golf clubs may be inserted into said tubular body through said open end; a shoulder strap assembly including first and second shoulder strap elements, said first strap element having a first strap end portion and a first strap element free end opposite said first strap end portion and said second strap element having a second strap element end portion and a second strap element free end opposite said first end portion; first mounting means on said golf bag at a first location, said first mounting means connected to said first strap element free end for securing said first strap free end to said golf bag at the first location; second mounting means on said golf bag at a second location axially spaced from the first location, said second mounting means connected to said first and second strap end portions for securing said end portions to said golf bag at the second location; third mounting means on said golf bag at a third location axially spaced from the second location between the second location and said closed end wherein, said third mounting means secures said second strap element free end to said golf bag at the third location; and said first and second shoulder strap elements sized to form first and second strap openings respectively when secured whereby the person may selectively carry said golf bag across one shoulder with only said first strap element and selectively carry said golf bag with both shoulders in a fully supported state by inserting his/her arms respectively through the first and second strap openings so that said golf bag is suspended from and supported by both shoulders with said golf bag oriented transversely across the back of the person.

Patent No. 5, 042, 704, Claim 8. Finally, Claim 14 states, in relevant part: a shoulder strap assembly . . . including first and second strap members, each of said strap members having opposite ends; first and second securing means for securing each of said opposite ends of said first strap member to longitudinally spaced locations on said sidewall . . . and a second location longitudinally spaced from said first location whereby said first strap member defines a first strap opening . . . ; and third and fourth securing means for securing each of said opposite ends of said second strap member to longitudinally spaced locations on said sidewall to define a second strap opening that another arm of the person can be inserted through . . . .

Patent No. 5, 042, 704, Claim 14.

The portion of the patent entitled "Summary of the Invention" refers to the strap attachment points as being "axially spaced . . . along an attachment axis". Moreover, the summary description further states, in relevant part:

The strap assembly described above [which utilizes the carrying handle of a traditional golf bag as the second attachment point] may be employed with existing golf bags having a top mounting element, a handle and a bottom mounting element where the top and bottom mounting elements traditionally secure a unitary carrying strap for such traditional golf bags. However, this strap assembly may also be implemented with a specially constructed golf bag wherein a different structure is utilized for the upper and lower mounts. For example, in the exemplary embodiment of the present invention, a first mount located proximate the open end of the bag is in the form of a first mounting strip extending circumferentially around at least a portion of the tubular body on either side of the attachment axis and a first slide ring slideably received on this first mounting strip so that the mounting ring is movable along the first mounting strip to locations circumferentially on either side of the attachment axis. The bottom mount, at the third location, may include a second mounting strip extending circumferentially around at least a portion of the tubular body on either side of the attachment axis and a second slide ring slideably receive don [sic] the second mounting strip so that it is movable to locations circumferentially on either side of the attachment axis.

Patent, Numbered ¶ 4. The patent's "Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiment" ("Detailed Description") continues, in relevant part:

[T]he invention, when used in conjunction with the golf bag, broadly includes a pair of straps which are connected to and oriented longitudinally along a golf bag to define an attachment axis. A first strap has a first strap first end connected to an upper portion of the golf bag and a first strap second end connected to the mid-portion of the golf bag that is longitudinally spaced from the upper. The second strap has a second strap first end that is connected to the mid-portion of the golf bag at or proximate to the location of the attachment point of the first strap second end. The second strap has a second strap second end that is connected to a lower portion of the golf bag longitudinally spaced from the mid-portion.

***

Thus, . . . the first, second and third locations define a longitudinal attachment axis A. Patent, Numbered ¶ ¶ 5, 6. The Detailed Description further states:

A first circumferential mounting strap 60 has end portions 62 and 64 secured [sic] at opposite diametric locations on upper end portion 34 of golf bag. . . . Alternately, mounting strap 60 could extend completely around shell 36 to cradle golf bag 12. . . . Turning to FIG. 4, it may be seen that the second end 58 of second strap 16 is mounted to golf bag 12 by means of a ...


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