It only costs $12.95 to buy a Magic Band at one of the media giant’s theme parks, but the tracking system could end up costing Disney a whole lot more. In a patent infringement complaint filed April 22 in federal court, educationally focused InCom Corp is claiming that the Walt Disney Company has snagged a trio of its patents to track what people do and what they buy at Walt Disney World. The California-based InCom is seeking a jury trial and wants wide-ranging and unspecified damages and a court declaration that the far-from-ignorant House of Mouse has been using tech that isn’t theirs.
“Disney has deliberately persisted in its infringing acts despite its knowledge of the patent, and as such is willfully infringing,” alleges the 13-page filing from Palm Desert attorney Thomas J. McDermott on behalf of the 11-year old InCom (read it here). “As a consequence of the infringing activities of Disney … InCom has suffered monetary damages in an amount not yet determined, and InCom will continue to suffer such damages in the future unless and until Disney’s infringing activities are enjoined by this Court.”
A Disney spokesperson said today, “The lawsuit is without merit, and we will respond to it in court.”
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Amidst some congressional controversy over privacy concerns, Disney introduced the Magic Band back in 2013 at its Orlando theme park. Despite correspondence from InCom over how similar the technologies are, the company is in the process of bringing the system to Disneyland in Anaheim, according to this week’s filing. The suit also claims that Disney has sold more than 10 million Magic Bands during the past two years – which would mean around a $130 million in sales.
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The plaintiff says it was issued the rights in 2008, 2010 and 2013 to the patents they accused Disney of infringing. The latter patent was legally issued on January 15, 2013, and assigned to InCom soon afterward. It should be noted that Disney already had announced the forthcoming implementation of the Magic Band at that point.
The two companies certainly target different markets with their products. InCom’s use of the tracking tech is centered on educational institutions, the company explains in the suit. “InCom developed the three patents in suit to implement an Attendance Tracking System which it markets to schools, colleges, universities, and other venues,” it says. “A principal inventive concept is the use of Radio Frequency Identification (“RFID”) to recognize human beings and keep track of their attendance through the use of RFID in conjunction with other apparatus.” Noting how attendance factors into funding for schools, the plaintiff also claims that no such radio-frequency-based system worked “while near human beings” until they brought their product out.
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