Updated 12/31/09 with a statement and clarification from Craig Miller of Ultimate Airball.
ProPaintball.com inside sources are reporting that bunker manufacturer Ultimate Airball is gearing up for a legal campaign against Sup’Air / AdrenalineGames and possibly US-based leagues utilizing the SupAir products.
As far as we can tell, the issue with the paintball leagues is the use, display and “promotion” of patent-infringing products. Back in 2007, Ultimate Airball was granted Patent # 7,223,185 for a “hide behind bunker system and kit with impact dampening anchors”.
Sup’Air Adrenaline Games first introduced inflatable air bunkers in 1997 in Toulouse, bringing tournament paintball out of the woods and onto the turf. While this moment is a sure landmark in paintball history, this lawsuit could mark interesting times ahead for AdrenalineGames / Sup’Air.
From the looks of the Ultimate Airball website, things are starting to heat up:
Today, Ultimate Airball® is proceeding to successfully defend their Patent through amicable licensing agreements, and has returned to full production of the toughest inflatable bunkers ever made, and the dealers and field operators have collectively applauded the return of Ultimate Airball®!
Judging by the list of customers on the Sup’Air ball website; affected leagues may include the USPL, PSP, RPL, CFOA, WCPPL, GPL, and the NCPA.
Potentially, the concept of “use, display and promotion” could be applied to paintball parks as well, including but not limited to CPX, Giant Paintball Parks, Pev’s, CFP, etc.
Update 12/31/09: Craig Miller has informed us that Brimstone & Ultimate Airball have no intention of going after the paintball parks themselves.
While the details have yet to arrive as to the result of the Ultimate Airball licensing agreement, this could spell rising tournament and field fees worldwide. Stay tuned to ProPaintball.com for updates as this story unfolds.
Update 12/31/09: Craig Miller filled us in on the delay between being granted the patent and enforcement of the intellectual property:
The reason for our delay in defending our Patent is because we spent
more than a year negotiating with our competitor, which resulted
in a mutually agreeable legal arrangement, which was signed in
Washington DC, but the competitor almost immediately breached
the agreement and failed to fulfill their signed, legal obligations.
This left us no more choices.
The fact is, Brimstone is looking for absolutely nothing that is not
ours. The Paintball industry is funny regarding patents and
intellectual property. It is a cottage industry full of opportunities
for inventors and designers, many of whom begin as players. So,
you’d think that the player base would want to protect their own,
and show loyalty to inventors that come up with a “better mousetrap”
that improves the game.
But sometimes, it seems to be the reverse. We’re a company of
players. At 52, I still play at big games and scenarios every year.
Our original labor force was a Team – Brimstone Smoke. So when
a foreign company failed to compete with our improved tubeless
system and finally contracted with China to illegally make carbon
copy knock-offs of our much better design, it seems that players
would side with us, the originators.
— Craig Miller, UA