In December 2019, Disney opened its newest and one of its most technologically advanced rides, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. The ride first opened at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and opened less than one month later at Disneyland Resort. The trackless ride was an instant hit and frequently sees wait times of more than an hour and a half. It was an incredible feat of Walt Disney Imagineering. At least that’s what people thought. Then, in November 2021, a lawsuit was filed claiming that Disney had, in fact, stolen the idea.
On November 9, 2021, Raven Sun Creative filed a lawsuit against Disney and claimed patent infringement. The person at Raven Sun Creative who filed the lawsuit was Louis Alfieri, a former Universal creative director who was responsible for the creation of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at the Universal Orlando Resort. The lawsuit claims:
Raven Sun Creative says it has a patent for technology that coordinates a vertical-moving rider trolley with videos on a screen, so theme park riders feel like they are really moving in the environment they see on the screen. The movement on the tower is synced with the video screen and the seat’s movements, making the theme park ride experience feel more immersive and real.
But the lawsuit alleges Disney used that same technology in the Rise of Resistance scene when theme park-goers feel like they are jettisoning out of an escape pod during the ride’s controlled drop finale.
After months of silence, Disney is now fighting back and asking a judge to declare that Raven’s patent is unenforceable. The reason? Disney claims that, in his original suit, Alfieri was deceptive and did not share that he had worked on the Transformers 3D ride that is at both Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood. Per Florida Politics — which first reported on the original lawsuit and now Disney’s response:
In court documents, Disney said Raven’s chief creative officer, Louis Alfieri, one of the inventors for Raven’s patent, was not upfront with the U.S. Patent Office about his previous work on Universal’s Transformers ride when Alfieri worked at Universal Creative. Disney claims the patent Raven is now suing Disney over for the Star Wars ride is similar to Transformers: The Ride — 3D. Since Alfieri didn’t disclose his work on Transformers, Disney said, The Mouse wants Raven’s patent to be thrown out, calling it unenforceable.
“If Alfieri had a similar patent or similar project at Universal … that could be bad news for Raven,” said Andrew Berks, a New York-based patent attorney at Gallet Dreyer and Berkey who isn’t involved in the lawsuit but reviewed the documents at Florida Politics’ request. Although, Berks added, Universal could have licensed the technology from Raven.
Disney is now countersuing Raven and wants Raven’s patent to be declared unenforceable, court documents show.
Disney claims that Raven’s patent is unenforceable because the company (Raven) cannot prove how the ride design differs from that of Transformers 3D. Disney also claims that Raven is engaging in “patent misuse” by claiming that their patent is different and suing Disney. As the lawsuit continues, both sides will have to reveal what goes into creating these rides and what the existing patents do and do not cover.