All major park operators face patent lawsuit over magnetic braking

Posted | Contributed by crazy horse

NBC Universal Inc., Walt Disney Co. and three other U.S. theme-park operators were accused of infringing patents on magnetic brakes used on roller coasters. Safety Braking Corp., based in Newport Beach, Calif., claims the companies infringed patents won in 1994 and 2003. The defendants also include Busch Entertainment Corp., Six Flags Inc. and Cedar Fair LP.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Rctycoon2k's avatar
Wouldn't the lawsuits better fit against the coaster's manufacturers rather than the parks themselves, since they are, in fact, the ones who broke the patent?
janfrederick's avatar
Because they get more press this way.
I agree.

They'd have to sue Intamin,B&M & other manufacturers for this patent infringement.The big question now though is why even wait 13 years to bring it to court?

IIRC the first mag brakes to be used in the amusement industry were by Intamin for their giant drop freefall towers,which debutted in the mid 90's.

The Mole's avatar
It's like suing the customers of a product if the maker of the product violated a patent. This is insane.
janfrederick's avatar
I wonder if the company changed owners or something. New business plan.
If you read the article closely, it sounds like the only parks that are being sued are those thad added magnetic brakes themselves to rides, not the parks that had magnetic brakes as part of the initial design. KI added magnetic brakes to the Beast. Disney Imagineering does their own designs from scratch (and I believe Universal does this to some extent as well). That could be part of the target of the suit or could be brought on the by reporting of the suit itself.
I suspect their reasoning is driven by the bank accounts of the named companies versus the bank account of a few manufacturers. It's a bigger piggy bank to break open.

Edit: Walt S -- Good point. I bet that's exactly what's going on.

*** This post was edited by Outlane 3/7/2007 1:45:49 PM ***

Patent infringement can be prosecuted for manufacturing, offering for sale, or use of a patented technology. The decision to prosecute is not as easy as it sounds, there is significant cost and the risk of the patent being invalidated. Typically if a company is sued for infringement the first thing they will try is to prove that the patent should not have been granted. So before deciding to prosecute the patent needs to be thoroughly examined to make sure it is very strong. This also involves cost.

So I'm guessing they waited until they felt that it was in their financial interest to prosecute and the patent was deemed strong enough.

This is the second problem that Cedar Fair Entertainment Company has experienced from a park that they purchased. The Chaos @ Michigan's Adventure, now King's Island!!

Too bad for a great company

As a followup, there was an article published talking about Magnetic brakes at kennywood ( The company that did this installation, Magnetar Technologies Inc., happens to be one of the companies whose patents have been bought out by the Plaintif in the suit. So, it sounds like the decision as to who to sue may be based upon:
#1 The ompany that provided the braking equipment
#2 Whether the park did the nstallation themselves as a retrofit to a ride or whether it had the design from the beginning.
Guess they don't plan on SELLING any installations in the future.

Having irked their customer base and all.

Incidentally? Magnetar--holders of one of the patents Safety Braking holds a license to--was sued by Intamin in 2005. It was deemed a frivolous suit and tossed out of court.


I copied this over from my post in the forum thread.

I think everyone recognizes the value of patents. However on a ride like TTD there could be dozens if not more, patented components. Should the end user be responsible for making certain all royalties have been paid on each and every component to a ride? If a Ford car contained a part that was patented by another company. Would that company sue Ford or everyone who owns a Ford?

I think the company just wants to make a lot of noise. They could very well have a legitimate suit, but it should be against the manufacturers, not the companies who purchased their products.

The lawsuit states that the plaintiff wants the court to find each Defendant's infringements have been willful and deliberate. I don't see that happening.

*** This post was edited by Jeffrey Seifert 3/7/2007 2:33:12 PM ***

I agree with that. The parks purchased the rides from someone else who made it for them with te magnetic brakes. So it is the manufactuers fault if any patents were ignored ect. Even if the parkrequested magnetic brakes the builder of the ride still could have said no because we do not have the patent for that. I think this magnetic law suit is just trying to cause a lot of hussle and bussle, I doubt they will succeed. Not only does it not make sense, They would have to go for EVERY park that had magnetic brakes installed on a ride after the time their patent was filed which I am sure includes parks over sea as well. This is a dead case for me.
Why wait? Well, you could sue ONE park, or you could give it time to catch on and be widely used, and then strike like a viper. Almost like putting money in a bank and earning interest.. the longer you wait, the more cash you get.
Jeff's avatar
The park operators have much deeper pockets than the manufacturers.

There absolutely has to be "prior art" or whatever they call it in patent law. It's a silly situation regardless, when you're suing the entire industry that would, in theory, buy your product.

Heck, the giant freefall towers have actually been around since the mid to late 80's. SFOG had Freefall back in the mid 80's.
"It's a silly situation regardless, when you're suing the
entire industry that would, in theory, buy your product."

On the other hand, if no one is buying your products, you might decide to sue and rake in several million in settlements while closing that division. Welcome to today's throwaway corporations.

Or, if you have no product to sell, and no manufacturing capacity to make a product that you could sell, but you bought the rights for the patent inexpensively, then...

That's what this smells like to me, anyway.

Looks like this company is following the SCO business plan.

This is ridiculous.

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