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Lawsuit Puts the Brakes on Theme Parks

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Published: March 7, 2007 at 5:33 PM

It seems that just about every single theme park company out there is being accused of patent infringment for using a magnetic breaking system. Safety Braking claims they hold exclusive licenses to the patents from Magnetar Technologies Corp., based in Seal Beach, California, and the other from G&T Conveyor Co., based in Tavares.

Safety Braking won the patents in 1994 and 2003.

This could mean that if the court decides in the favor of Safety Braking that all theme parks involved, including DISNEY, will have to pay hefty fines. More on this as it develops.

Readers' Opinions

From Christy Shuman on March 7, 2007 at 8:55 PM
I wonder if this will cause the rides with those kind of brakes to close, or whats going to happen b/c of this craziness. People will sue over anything these days(roll eyes)
From Derek Potter on March 7, 2007 at 11:15 PM
A couple of questions. One, why is this company suing the park chains and not the ride manufacturers? Certain parks such as Disney build their own rides, so I could maybe see that. The other companies involved don't design and build their own rides for the most part. They hire firms to do that. Why not a lawsuit against Intamin or B&M. Some older rides have had the brakes installed on them for safety and economical purposes, but are the parks who do this really making a buck off of them? There's not an upcharge magnetic brake ride attraction out there is there? Two, magnetic brakes on rides have been around for 15 years, so that means that the rights have been "infringed upon" for a long time. Why a lawsuit now?

The answers obviously lie within the almighty dollar. I think that the park companies make a much better target than the manufacturers do for the simple fact that they have more money. I also believe that this company is hoping for a nice settlement, because this lawsuit isn't exactly a solid rock. The fact that this is happening now...years after the first set of magnetic brakes were installed reeks a little bit. If I'm a judge, I would have that same question, and I think the plaintiffs know that as well. Call me the eternal cynic/conspiracy theorist on this one, but to me it just stinks a little.

From David Kirby on March 7, 2007 at 11:58 PM
Derek, Disney also hires coaster companies to build their roller coasters, namely Vekoma.
From Pete Brecht on March 8, 2007 at 6:12 AM
There's an entire industry in the legal community that does the following:

1) buy obscure companies that happen to have various patents over the years
2) scour the world for anyone who could conceivably be violating any of these patents
3) sue the heck out of them and hope for a settlement

I think it's called something like lawsuit harvesting, and that's what this sounds like, particularly in light of how old some of these supposed patent violations are.

From Larry Zimmerman on March 8, 2007 at 5:56 PM
I think the parks being sued should remove the brakes from the coasters and send the parts to the lawyers. It'll make for some wild rides, I'm sure!
From Adrienne McDonald on March 8, 2007 at 10:59 PM
I thought there was a law that went into effect to eliminate frivoulous law suites. I guess this didn't fall into that catagory. I agree about suing the manufacturers. I disagree w/the suing part of it but if they want to sue, what do the parks have to do w/it. They didn't make the brakes, they just put them in w/the coaster or they simply came w/the coaster. Stupid. Just another example of trying to get money w/o wking for it.
From Derek Potter on March 9, 2007 at 12:29 AM
This doesn't necessarily fall under the term frivoulous lawsuit...yet. There is some legitimacy to the claims being made, it's just the circumstances under which they have been made that comes into question. The technology has been around too long and used too widely, and the parks usually aren't the ones who design the mechanical aspects of a ride. Quite honestly I don't think that the park companies are just going to settle on this one. Cedar Fair has been known to go to war with city councils, ride companies, and others who get in the way of their interests. I can't see Universal or Disney and their army of lawyers and piles of money just rolling over either. The suit is against 5 of the biggest companies in the business, and if the parks are ready to fight, they have a excellent chance of winning. I hope that the plaintiffs have a warchest ready to go.
From TH Creative on March 11, 2007 at 3:39 PM
There's something missing in this story. First of all different rides use different braking systems -- meaning the topic of discussion does not mean ALL the rides at the themeparks are using the system in question.

Second, it seems as though the contractor selling Disney the braking system would be liable and not Disney. Indeed, most patent infringement lawsuits go after the party profiting from the SALE not from the product's use.

Is the lawsuit claiming Disney stole the design itself and manufactured a system? If so, it seems strange that multiple parks would be named as they would have to be manufacturing the same system design as Disney. It would be as if multiple park operators knowingly (and VERY coincidentally) lifted the same material.

That's why it seems like we have not gotten the entire story

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