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:
From the Sandusky Register…
The fate of Cedar Point’s new ride could already be up in the air as a patent war brews between two ride manufacturers.
Brian Mirfin, of Australian ride manufacturer Funtime Group, said the new ride will be the Wind Seeker, made by Dutch-based manufacturer Mondial.
The Wind Seeker, however, is a patent-infringing copy of the StarFlyer — a tower ride the Funtime Group made and owns a patent on, Mirfin said.
Both rides are tower rides that spin riders around as they extend high in the air.
The StarFlyer pulls seats attached to a chain. The Mondial design is similar but uses arms instead of chains.
In its news announcement in early February, Mondial said it came up with the new ride “following requests from clients who wanted a StarFlyer-style ride they could still operate within normal wind conditions.”
“It’s almost like Mondial’s plagiarizing our idea,” said Mirfin, director of the Funtime Group and owner of Cottingham Agencies, which holds the patent for StarFlyer. “It makes us very, very angry.”
Executives at Mondial did not return an e-mail from a reporter seeking comment.
Dick Kinzel, president, chairman and CEO for Cedar Fair, said Wednesday night he had no comment. He repeated that the company plans to make an announcement at 2 p.m. Tuesday about the new ride for 2011.
Mirfin said his company, which has built 22 StarFlyers so far, thought it had a deal to build one for Cedar Point after amusement park executives flew to Orlando, Fla., several months ago to look at a StarFlyer at the Magical Midway.
Mirfin said his company planned to build a StarFlyer for Cedar Point that would be 400 feet tall — even bigger than the StarFlyer at Prater Park in Vienna, which stands 384 feet tall.
Instead, Funtime learned Cedar Point was buying a similar ride from Mondial, Mirfin said
“Now, not only do we not get the contract, now we’ve got to get into litigation,” Mirfin said. “The ones that we’ll be suing will be Cedar Point and not Mondial.”
Funtime’s U.S. patent for StarFlyer — patent No. 7666103 — was granted Feb. 23.
Tony Handal, the Connecticut attorney who filed the patent, said he believes the Mondial ride would be a patent infringement on the StarFlyer.
“It looks pretty much like the same thing to me,” Handal said, adding that he doubts litigation will be necessary.
“I think Cedar Point will not go forward without a license,” Handal said. “They can either do that or they can have the ride built by a licensed company.”
From the Sandusky Register…
On Monday, I mentioned speculation that the new Cedar Point ride for 2011 could be the StarFlyer, a tower ride that hoists riders into the air and spins them around.
The StarFlyer, produced by an Australian company, is said to be vulnerable to winds. A roller coaster fan at a Dutch website for coaster buffs points out that a Dutch ride company, Mondial, has a new product, the Wind Seeker, that resembles the StarFlyer but can cope with the big winds generated by being next to a big lake. The ride uses arms instead of chains.
Interestingly, Mondial says it designed the Wind Seeker “following requests from clients who wanted a Star Flyer-style ride they could still operate within normal wind conditions.” As for a customer for the new ride, the Feb. 2 dispatch says vaguely, “Negotiations are currently under way to find the first client.”
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but today’s Cedar Point Facebook clue show a picture of a windmill that links to a Web site for making a “wind detector.”
From the Sandusky Register…
Our guests for this week’s Between the Lines program included Sandusky City Commissioner Diedre Cole and Cedar Point General Manager John Hildebrandt.
Click on the player below to watch the entire show.
- October Saturdays are busiest days of the season.
- Hildebrandt averages 5 to 6 miles of walking in the park each day, 8 to 9 miles on Saturdays.
- Special ticket pricing online allow discounts for guests.
- Hildebrandt confirms next year’s new attraction is a ride, that’s above ground, and it not a water ride.
- “I ride just about every ride [at Cedar Point]. I’m not sure I’m gonna ride this.” -John Hildebrandt
- It (next year’s new ride) will be a unique experience.
- Hildebrandt would not confirm the ride was a roller coaster or that it would change the Cedar Point skyline.
- The park recognizes that they need to invest in employee housing, and they’re working hard to do so.
- The new ride doesn’t include the word “star” in any way.
- Hildebrandt would not confirm that Ocean Motion is for sale.
- Undertaker U is getting replaced by The Asylum for HalloWeekends.
- All new show in the Jack Aldrich theatre for HalloWeekends. John describes the show as a song and dance magic show.
- The park is in discussions with IntaRide over the delay of Shoot the Rapids.
- New ride’s color scheme has been “pretty much” decided.
- Construction will begin this fall on the new ride for 2011.
- New ride will be announced later this month.
- There will probably be a construction webcam for the new ride.
Cedar Point Press Release
SANDUSKY, Ohio – Now the excitement starts.
Later this month, Cedar Point will announce its expansion plans for next summer on Facebook. To offer their fans an opportunity to join in the fun, Cedar Point will begin releasing clues on Facebook.
To be among the first to learn about the park’s plans for 2011, Facebook users can “like” the park’s official page at: www.facebook.com/cedarpoint.
“We have some exciting plans for next summer,” said Clark Culbertson, Cedar Point’s vice president of marketing. “Our followers on Facebook are among our biggest fans. We want to reward them for their support and let them have some fun in the process.”
Throughout the year, the park’s Facebook fans receive some special benefits. These exclusive offers range from discounted tickets to Cedar Point, savings on attractions at North Coast Parasail, located on the Cedar Point Beach, and instant online deal information. There may also be some additional offerings when the park tops 500,000 Facebook fans.
Since first establishing a Facebook presence in 2008, Cedar Point currently has nearly 490,000 fans.
For more information, visit: www.facebook.com/cedarpoint.