From toledoBlade.com

SANDUSKY – Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky had intricate plans to use the social media site Facebook as the place next week to unveil its newest ride for 2011.

But now it appears that an Australian ride manufacturer has revealed it in a patent dispute over its version of a towering thrill ride it calls StarFlyer and a Dutch competitor’s version called Wind Seeker.

Funtime Group of Bundall, Australia, claims it thought it had a deal with Cedar Fair LP to build a 400-foot high StarFlyer ride to debut at Cedar Point in 2011, but now the Sandusky park plans to buy a Wind Seeker from Mondial World of Rides of Terband, the Netherlands.

Both rides feature a large tower that spins up to 50 riders from a center ring that rises high into the air. StarFlyer’s chairs are attached by chains, Wind Seeker’s by poles.

Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., of Cincinnati, said StarFlyer-type rides cost just more than $2 million each and do not require a large area like a roller coaster.

Funtime, which introduced StarFlyer in 2004 and has a U.S. patent on the design, has threatened legal action if Cedar Point builds a Wind Seeker.

“We’ve spoken with the folks at Cedar Fair and my belief is we’re going to work it out,” said Tony Handal, a lawyer for Cottingham Agencies, the U.S. patent holder on StarFlyer for Funtime Group. “We have a patent and it’s a remarkable ride, newer technology. I couldn’t imagine Cedar Fair wouldn’t respect our rights in this.”

Mr. Handal said Cottingham wants Cedar Fair either to buy a StarFlyer or pay a licensing fee for using technology it claims infringes on its patent.

The attorney said that, while the two ride makers attach their two-seat ride cars differently, Cottingham’s position is there’s “no significant difference” in the two rides.

Officials at Mondial could not be reached for comment.

Cedar Fair spokesman Stacy Frole said the company had no comment on the controversy or statements by Funtime.

“We haven’t announced the ride yet, so there’s nothing to comment about,” she said. The announcement on the ride is to be made Tuesday.

Mr. Handal said Cedar Fair went to Florida this year to view a StarFlyer at Magical Midway amusement park and contacted Funtime about one for Cedar Point. In July, Cedar Fair filed a trademark name application for a new ride called “Stratosoar.”

“[Cedar Fair] did contact us, but then they went with another company that doesn’t own the patent,” Mr. Handal said.

Jeff Putz, a Web site operator for PointBuzz, a Cedar Point fan site, said the patent controversy is now the hot topic among parkgoers.

“There had been a lot of rumors beforehand about what the ride was,” he said. “So far, people are talking more about the controversy than the ride.”

Contact Jon Chavez at:
jchavez@theblade.comor
419-724-6128.