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Legal action against unlicenced bouncy castles in UK?

Licensing deal threatens UK inflatables industry?

In the last couple of weeks we have been contacted frequently by UK bouncy castle hirers concerned about rumours of a legal storm coming their way. Supposedly one or more larger multinationals are preparing to take action on the massive infringement of their IP by UK based inflatables companies.

It has been more than a year since we, together with the Bouncy Castle Network, wrote this article http://www.jb-inflatables.co.uk/the-truth-about-disney-inflatables, explaining the ins and outs of Intellectual Property in the UK inflatables industry.

This article especially blew the whistle on the common unlicensed Disney, Nickelodeon, Pixar and Warner Brothers bouncy castles around in the UK.

Other European countries with a huge number of unlicensed (and therefore illegal) are Spain and Italy. The intention of this article was to educate and warn hirers about the risks involved with buying, renting or selling unlicensed bouncy castles.

JB and Disney inflatables

It is no secret to industry insiders, that JB-inflatables has been involved in long talks with the IP department of Disney, discussing the exclusive European license for commercial inflatables.

After more than 16 months of preparation and talks we’ve decided not to continue going down this road. The real reason behind this decision has never been made public before. Given all the rumours, concerns and scaremongering that are around now, we feel it may be the right moment to disclose it after all.

In the current situation there are still many inflatables manufacturers making and selling unlicensed bouncy castles. There also literally hundreds, and probably thousands, of UK hirers operating one or more unlicensed bouncy castles. Fortunately legal action from the IP owners has been rare yet. So far this has was limited to a handful of rental companies that were targeted in the UK.

Because the UK is a very important market for JB, all these thousands of hirers are our potential customers for the future. Having the license would have put us in a very tricky situation.

In fact it’s a classic prisoners dilemma: if we’d have the license we would be the only manufacturer allowed to offer these bouncy castles (at a premium). By doing so, suddenly the IP owner would have an incentive to go after all the companies infringing on it’s IP.

Of course this would reflect badly on us, since these hirers would probably blame us for giving the IP owner a financial motive (the licensing deal!) to take legal action against them in the first place, after being left alone for many years. In that situation we could be the proud owner of a wonderful licensing deal, but it would be worthless. Probably no hirer in his right mind would ever want to do business with us again after they’d received the first letter from an IP law firm, claiming damages and fines for the use of unlicensed inflatables.

So let me make this perfectly clear; JB has not signed, and has no intention to sign, any licensing deal with Disney, Pixar, Warner Brothers, DC, Nickelodeon or Marvel nor do we currently have contact with these companies. We are not involved in any legal action to be taken against individual hirers in the UK as a result of such a licensing deal.

Over the years we’ve educated the public, both online and offline, about the legal issues with Intellectual Property in order for them to make intelligent decisions about (un)licensed inflatables.

That being said we condemn any legal action against the UK rental industry as a result of a potential licensing deal with any inflatables company.

Roland Baks

CEO

JB-inflatables international