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ACUSHNET COMPANY ASSISTS IN BREAKUP OF MAJOR COUNTERFEIT GOLF EQUIPMENT RING

Results in Nine Arrests in Large On-line Counterfeit Conspiracy

Fairhaven, MA (September 25, 2009) – The ringleader of a wide ranging criminal conspiracy involving the sale of counterfeit golf equipment pled guilty to various charges, including conspiracy and counterfeiting,  in a  London court this week.  Gary Bellchambers, and eight other defendants, were charged with various crimes, including counterfeiting and conspiracy after the local Trading Standards office conducted an investigation into their fraudulent eBay business.  The counterfeiting activities included the sale of potentially millions of pounds worth of fake golf equipment.  Bellchambers, 45, will be sentenced in the near future.  Two of Bellchambers’ co-conspirators, Keith Thomas, 49, and Chris Moughton, 56, also admitted guilt, while six other defendants are currently on trial in Snaresbrook Crown Court in London.  According to an eBay official, this is one of the largest counterfeit products conspiracies discovered on their website.

Acushnet Company, which is comprised of the Titleist, FootJoy and Cobra golf equipment brands, maintains a constant presence online by monitoring the multitude of platforms where unauthorized sellers offer their products.  In 2006, Acushnet detected several sellers located in the London Borough of Havering on eBay, conducted an internal investigation, and alerted local law enforcement.  Coupled with a consumer complaint, the law enforcement officials took an interest in the case and uncovered a network that extended beyond the borders of the United Kingdom into several other countries, including Australia, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

“Acushnet is anxiously awaiting the outcome of the remaining defendants,” said Clive Harrison, Brand Protection Officer of Acushnet Europe.  “We are delighted to see Mr. Bellchambers, and hopefully his counterparts, finally being held accountable for their part in this scheme.  We extend our thanks to the Havering Trading Standards office for their efforts in bringing this case to court.”

“This is an historic case not only for the golf manufacturers, but for all brand owners who must combat the increasing global problem of online counterfeit products,” said Lisa Rogan, Acushnet Company Trademark Manager.  “The sale of fake and unauthorized golf products damages the reputation of our brands and impacts our customers around the world.  We have a worldwide team of associates who aggressively attack this growing issue, and we will continue our vigilant commitment to protect our brands and customers by continuously monitoring internet sales and websites.”

Over the past several years, Acushnet has alerted federal and local authorities around the globe about counterfeits and the unauthorized sale of Acushnet branded products, resulting in dozens of arrests and convictions, as well as the removal of millions of dollars worth of counterfeit product from commerce. 

Titleist, FootJoy and Cobra comprise the major golf brands of the Acushnet Company, an operating company of Fortune Brands, Inc. (NYSE - FO).  Titleist, Cobra and FootJoy are trademarks owned by Acushnet Company.  For more information, contact Joe Gomes, Director of Communications (508.979.3211).

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