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BMW files suit over logos on Freestyle Music Park's coaster cars

December, 2011 | PedalToTheMetal.com

A leading automaker has sued the owners of Freestyle Music Park for a company trademark's likeness to a park ride, but the park's owners say it's a misunderstanding. BMW says the cars of Freestyle Music Park's Round About ride look similar to the BMW Mini car and that the park hasn't signed a contract with the company to use the likeness in a ride.

When the park was Hard Rock Park, the Maximum RPM ride had a logo that looked similar to the BMW Mini logo posted on every car, but before Freestyle opened, it removed the logos during the rebranding of the park and named the ride Round About, said Freestyle spokeswoman Michelle Cantey.

BMW of North America, LLC, and Bayerische Motoren Werke Ag filed a suit against FPI MB Entertainment Tuesday for trademark infringement and false designation of origin by using the BMW's MINI trademarks on Freestyle Music Park's Round About ride.

The lawsuit states that on Nov. 3, BMW officials sent a cease and desist letter, requesting that the Freestyle owners stop using the MINI marks in connection with the roller coaster, but that Freestyle continued to make commercial use of the logo and did not provide any goods or services to BMW in return.

The original owners of the former Hard Rock Park, which filed for bankruptcy in September and is set to open under new ownership on Saturday as Freestyle Music Park, are suing the new owners for trademark infringement and unfair competition, according to court documents.

The original owners, led by Steven Goodwin, the park's former CEO, and Jon Binkowski, its former chief creative officer, are asking for an unspecified amount of monetary damages from a federal court in Delaware. They allege the park's new owner, FPI MB Entertainment, is using intellectual property that belongs to them.

Goodwin and Binkowski are asking a judge to stop FPI MBE from using its intellectual property at the park, and a hearing has been scheduled for tomorrow. It was not immediately clear how such a ruling would impact the park's planned reopening.

An attorney for FPI MB Entertainment, which owns Freestyle Music Park, has asked a Delaware judge to give the park more time to pay off the $570,000 in debt that belonged to the former owners of Hard Rock Park.

A trustee for Hard Rock Park filed a motion Dec. 11 with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, stating that the owners of Freestyle Music Park, FPI MB Entertainment, agreed to pay the amounts when they purchased the park in February. An amended notice of motion was filed with the courts on Dec. 29, stating that if FPI MBE responds to the motion, it must do so by today.

The motion and response will be addressed at a hearing scheduled for Jan. 14 in the bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del.

The owners of Freestyle Music Park have until Thursday to respond to a court motion that could compel the park to pay about $570,000 in outstanding debt that belonged to the former owners of Hard Rock Park.

Alfred Giuliano, a trustee for Hard Rock Park, filed the motion Dec. 11 with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, stating that the owners of Freestyle Music Park, FPI MB Entertainment, agreed to pay the amounts when they purchased the park in February.

An amended notice of motion was filed with the courts on Dec. 29, which states that if FPI MBE responds to the motion, it must do so on or before Thursday at 4 p.m. A hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 14 in the bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del.

A Delaware bankruptcy judge is giving the owners of Freestyle Music Park one more month to pay $570,000 in debts incurred by its predecessor, Hard Rock Park.

John T. Carroll, an attorney for a Hard Rock Park trustee, Alfred Guiliano, told Judge Kevin Carey Thursday that he would allow FPI MB Entertainment to have more time to pay the off debts.

"I received a phone call from the respondent’s counsel and they’ve indicated they have a funding problem, and they requested some additional time, and I reluctantly allowed to give them an additional 30 days," Carroll told Carey at the United States Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware in Wilmington, Del.

"As of our last communication with the BMW representative in November 2009, we had not signed an agreement to use BMW's trademarks and discussed our new investors coming on board in early 2010," Steve Baker, president of FPI MBE, said in a statement. "We suggested signing the agreement to use BMW's trademarks once the new investors came on board. ... We plan to rectify this misunderstanding and look forward to working with BMW in years to come."

BMW of North America LLC and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG filed the suit against FPI MB Entertainment Tuesday in U.S. District Court of South Carolina for trademark infringement and falsedesignation of origin.

On Nov. 3, BMW officials sent a cease and desist letter to Freestyle owners, asking them to stop using the Mini trademark with the ride, but Freestyle did not make any changes, BMW attorney J. Boone Aiken III wrote in the complaint.

The unauthorized use of a ride with the likeness of the BMW Mini is likely to cause confusion and deceive potential customers, who might think BMW has approved Freestyle's products and services, or has some affiliation with the park, Aiken said.

It "unjustly enriches" Freestyle Music Park and allows the park to "receive the benefit of goodwill" BMW has built up at "great labor and expense over many years," the court documents stated.

When FPI MBE purchased Hard Rock Park in February, the owners contacted BMW because the car company had made the same requests of the former owners of Hard Rock Park, Baker said.

"We understand that BMW is protecting its rights with the new Freestyle Music Park investors," Baker said.

Freestyle officials expect the new investors to sign a transaction with the park by the end of this month.

BMW is asking a judge to prevent Freestyle Music Park from using the Mini trademark further unless the park receives a license from BMW, and requesting that park owners pay BMW actual damages, including lost trademark royalties and any Freestyle profits that relate to the use of the likeness.

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