From the Sandusky Register

SANDUSKY

Cedar Fair officials say that when they bought four new WindSeeker rides, they were seeking riders, not a legal dispute.

But they say an argument over whether the ride violates a U.S. patent won’t slow deployment of the rides.

The amusement park chain announced Tuesday that it bought four WindSeeker rides, one each for its Cedar Point, Canada’s Wonderland, Kings Island and Knott’s Berry Farm amusement parks. The 301-foot-high ride spins riders high into the air.

The Funtime Group, an Australian company, says the WindSeeker is based on its own StarFlyer ride.

Brian Mirfin, the owner of the company, said he thought he had a deal brewing to sell StarFlyer rides to Cedar Fair after a delegation of Cedar Fair officials, including CEO Dick Kinzel, visited the Magical Midway in Orlando on Jan. 25, which has the only StarFlyer in the U.S.

Mirfin said that after the sale somehow fell through, he found out that Cedar Fair was buying a very similar new ride from Mondial.

“It’s almost like Mondial’s plagiarizing our idea,” said Mirfin. “It makes us very, very angry. …Now, not only do we not get the contract, now we’ve got to get into litigation.”

Mondial has not answered two e-mails asking for comment, but Stacy Frole, Cedar Fair’s director of investor relations, said Mondial’s U.S. patent attorney has told Cedar Fair that Funtime’s claim has no merit.

It is standard procedure that when Cedar Fair buys new rides, the contract has a provision that “would insulate us from intellectual property claims,” Frole said.

“We’re comfortable with our agreement with Mondial and we’re excited to build WindSeeker,” she said.

Robin Innes, a Cedar Point spokesman, said it’s normal for Cedar Point to talk to more than one ride vendor when considering a new ride.

It’s like buying a new car and going from dealership to dealership, he said.

“You look around and you see what fits best for you,” said Innes, who said Cedar Point is considering Funtime’s claim but has the legal brief from Mondial’s lawyer saying the claim has no merit.

Tony Handal, a Connecticut attorney specializing in patent law who represents Funtime, said Cedar Fair officials have told him they are considering the claim and have said they expect to get back to Handal within a few days.

Handal said he is “absolutely” confident his client has a legitimate patent claim.

Park World Online, apparently citing a Mondial press release, published an article on Feb. 2 this year about Mondial’s new ride.

“Designed following requests from clients who wanted a StarFlyer-style ride they could still operate within normal wind conditions, the WindSeeker is the result,” the article stated.

After the Sandusky Register published an article and blog posting quoting the Park World article, the wording of the article was changed. It now says the ride was developed “following requests from clients who wanted a tall swing ride they could still operate within normal wind conditions.”

Park World Online did not respond to an e-mail asking why it changed the wording.

For more coverage of “Ride Wars” click here.