Amusement Park May Get Sued For Patent Infringing Ride

from the the-roller-coaster-of-patent-law dept

As a kid, I used to go to a lot of amusement parks. I actually spent a couple summers at a camp that basically drove around the east coast from amusement park to amusement park. After a while, you become pretty familiar with the "standard" rides -- and while different amusement parks have different themes, the rides follow a basic theme, and that's actually a good thing. You do see variations on those themes, as different providers differentiate and tweak different designs to make them better and even more enjoyable. But, these days, that's becoming more and more difficult because, you guessed it, amusement park ride-makers are using patents to stop competitors.

Reader Jerry S points us to the story of how Cedar Point, one of the more famous amusement parks around (yeah, I went there too) might run itself into a legal fight because it wants to buy a ride called the Wind Seeker, made by Dutch firm Mondial. The only problem is that competing ride maker Funtime Group, from Australia, makes a ride called the StarFlyer, on which they hold a patent (7666103), and they say that the Wind Seeker infringes. Also, Funtime claims that it'll be suing Cedar Point -- though, oddly, it has no plans to sue Mondial.

Now this is actually a case where Mondial admits, straight up, that it came up with this ride as a response to StarFlyer, saying they were getting requests from customers for a ride like StarFlyer, but which functioned better in more windy conditions (hence the name Wind Seeker, perhaps). And this is exactly how innovation is supposed to work. You have one product that doesn't fully meet the needs of clients, even if it has some nice features, and so competitors come along and tweak it and innovate... and the originator is supposed to come along and innovate on top of that as well. Sitting back and threatening to sue for patent infringement isn't innovation at all.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 10:07am

    Somebody surely has a patent for "A method for making everyone vomit while claiming it's fun", hence producing the Teacup ride....

     

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  2.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 10:15am

    That's pretty much the mantra these days

    I have seen farther because I have stood upon the shoulders of giant.

    Also, I'm getting my lawyers to take the ladders down.

     

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  3.  
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    A Dan (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 10:17am

    Re:

    I would hope a patent on the teacup ride would have expired by now.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 10:38am

    So, wait, I can get sued for patent infringement if I buy a product that infringes on a patent?

     

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  5.  
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    But...but...What about the kids?, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 10:43am

    I hate everything now.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 10:44am

    Re:

    No no, it's if you consider buying it.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 10:47am

    The ridiculous thing is that this is just a big "parasol chairs" ride. Practically every theme park and carnival has a variation of this ride in a smaller form. I don't know what exactly would be considered the infringing point of the ride....The size? The height? The configuration of certain mechanics?

    I also have a hard time respecting a company in Australia litigating against a theme park so far away that they can't be even considered competition. I can understand trying to protect themselves if this was nearby competition, but I think they are completely violating the spirit of innovation by litigating. It's not like they are the one ones who came up with the idea of "parasol chairs", they innovated off of the idea, just like Cedar Point did as well.

     

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  8.  
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    tubes (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 10:54am

    How can you patent a type of ride that has been around for ages. They have these type of rides at almost every road side carnival around. As a frequent guest at Cedar Point they already have a ride there (Wave Swinger) that is similar to the new one they are planning to build except it's not 400' high.
    Plus the one they are building is different then the one in the patent. As long as you change at least one little thing it shouldn't be infringing on their patent.
    I hope Cedar Fair doesn't collapse to the pressure and change their plans. If you go to any amusement park they all have similar rides to one another.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 11:09am

    Next

    They'll be suing Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania for stealing their idea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauch_Chunk_Switchback_Railway).

     

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  10.  
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    AR, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 11:53am

    The good ol days

    A long time ago it used to be said "to get rich, build a better mouse trap". Now everyone is so greedy they twist patent and copyright laws to ensure no one can try to market even the idea of a better mousetrap (let alone call it one). These LAWS (not rights) need to be eliminated' for a time' so that society can advance At the same time teach these spoiled "inventors" that they have gone too far with their greed and delusions of self worth. Not every invention or discovery leads to that person becoming rich and famous. Sometimes its the person who improves on it or takes it the next step, that gets the recognition. Sometimes the original "inventors" become to complacent with what they already have and dont want anyone to take it away from them.

     

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  11.  
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    Eugene (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 12:00pm

    Re: That's pretty much the mantra these days

    Ironically, that quote is an oblique attack by Newton toward a short-statured colleague who he felt was receiving more credit than he deserved for some discovery or another.

    Newton was kind of an asshole.

     

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  12.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 12:03pm

    I just bet that you did.

    "I actually spent a couple summers at a camp that basically drove around the east coast from amusement park to amusement park."

    That explains your privileged, lightweight, escapist views.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 12:16pm

    Re: I just bet that you did.

    It also explains why he's so damn happy an successful and moves quickly from topic to topic at speeds you would not think possible!

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 12:36pm

    Not sure how they could win a patent infringement lawsuit against the purchaser of the product.

    Also, I believe Cedar Fair is buying 5 or 6 of these to put in various parks across the country. I'm sure that is why Funtime is trying to presure them into buying their product.

     

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  15.  
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    Joshy, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 1:25pm

    So you will get sued for buying the improved version that will work in windy areas from the new company. We know you won't buy from the old company because it doesn't work in windy areas. Which means the old company would have never made any money to begin with.

    Imagine if Ford had the patent on horseless carriages. We all would be stuck driving a black car because black was the only color he would approve. Not to mention all of the other improvements to cars. Ford wasn't interested in improving the car just the way the car was produced.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 5:54pm

    I don't see the problem here. Mondial should have asked for a license for the StarFlyer patent. They did some shady dealing and hoped to get away with it. Mondial shouldn't be allowed to profit by stealing from StarFlyer. Mondial should pay for it is clearly capitalizing on.

    I also don't see why the plaintiff is characterized as lazy.
    If Wind Seeker is more fun than StarFlyer, there will be more demand for it. StarFlyer may be driven out of the market. Or Mondail can come up with new ways to improve its ride in other ways than copying StarFlyer.

    Seems like the patent system is driving both parties to innovate, exactly like it is supposed to.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 6:05pm

    Are we having fun yet?

    Amusement park toy wars are not amusing.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 9:44pm

    Re:

    "The configuration of certain mechanics?"

    Does it have wheels? Remember, Australia has a patent on the wheel too.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 9:50pm

    Re:

    "I don't see the problem here."

    open your eyes

    "Mondial shouldn't be allowed to profit by stealing from StarFlyer."

    I agree, but he's not stealing. At worst he's copying and there is nothing wrong with that.

    "I also don't see why the plaintiff is characterized as lazy. "

    Open your eyes.

    "Or Mondail can come up with new ways to improve its ride in other ways than copying StarFlyer."

    Nothing wrong with copying.

    "Seems like the patent system is driving both parties to innovate, exactly like it is supposed to."

    If you mean new and innovative ways of creating frivolous litigation, litigation that takes money and resources away from true innovation, then I completely agree.

     

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  20.  
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    Tom Landry (profile), Sep 9th, 2010 @ 4:00am

    WTF? I want the childhood Mike had.

    I got shuttled off to a Catholic day camp where the only break between having the bible rammed down your throat in a mosquito infested open air hall was swimming and making stupid crafts like macaroni pictures. Thanks Mom & Dad!

     

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  21.  
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    The Coaster Critic, Sep 9th, 2010 @ 5:26am

    Ride and roller coaster types are copied often in the amusement industry, but the way this situation is going down seems a bit different. Normally, a park would take bids from ride design companies and pick the one that suits their needs. They talked to the only provider of this type of ride, made an agreement, and then backed out only to have another company build the same ride at four of their parks.

    Isn't there an issue with the fact that Cedar Fair (owners of Cedar Point) had some type of agreement to build a StarFlyer at Cedar Point before they hired Mondial to create a similar ride that it doesn't currently offer. Is Cedar Fair's pre-existing agreement with FunTime the crux of the issue? If they would have at least built the one they had agreed to at Cedar Point maybe there wouldn't have been such a big issue.

    By the way, the parks are: Cedar Point (Sandusky,OH), Knott's Berry Farm (LA-Area), Kings Island(Cinncinnati,OH), and Canada's Wonderland (Toronto). Their height will set them a part from the rides many of you are thinking of. They're going to be 300 feet (30 stories tall). FunTime has built them even taller!

     

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