LaBelle Lake Ice Palace faces lawsuit from Ice Castles company
RIGBY — LaBelle Lake Ice Palace is being sued by Ice Castles, a winter attraction company with six locations across North America, for allegedly infringing on their ice building patent and for damages.
Ice Castles claims in their lawsuit that LaBelle Lake Ice Palace has not only stolen their patented technique for forming ice structures, but is also taking business away from their Midway, Utah, Ice Castles location.
Kira Martin, Director of Business for LaBelle Lake, said that contact with Ice Castles first started in 2017 before they opened Ice Palace. Ice Castles’ CEO Ryan Davis confirmed this in an email from the company.
“Ice Castles initially became aware of the situation with LaBelle Lake when the resort used our trademarked business name and our copyrighted images on its website to advertise the winter attraction that they planned to build using the process that Ice Castles invented and patented,” Ryan Davis said in an email. ”Our legal team investigated the matter and determined LaBelle Lake is in direct violation of our patent. Ice Castles contacted the owners of LaBelle Lake and attempted to settle this matter outside of court. Unfortunately, the owners of LaBelle Lake decided not to resolve the matter and continue(s) to infringe upon our patent, forcing us (to) seek legal action to protect our brand, our patent, and our company.“
Ice Palace posted the copyrighted images and logo in 2017 via Facebook. Martin said that she wasn’t sure why Ice Castles is making reference to this Facebook post because the issue was resolved at that time.
Martin said that before opening LaBelle Lake Ice Palace, they had researched what to call their new attraction. She said that at the name, Ice Castles, was found everywhere even in the title of a movie, so thought it would be safe to use. She said that LaBella Lake then shared a Facebook post where the business presented their new logo and used photos from Ice Castles, the business now suing them, to show what their new business venture might look like.
Martin said that once the Facebook post was up, Davis contacted them. This prompted LaBelle Lake to take the post down and changed their name from LaBelle Ice Castle to LaBelle Lake Ice Palace.
Martin said that Davis told her family that as long as they didn’t use Ice Castles name or photos, that they would be fine and wished them luck with their new attraction.
But then Martin said that they receive a cease and desist order from Ice Castle on the day they opened and it left the family business in confusion.
She said that at this point they didn’t know how Ice Castle put together their ice structures.
Martin claims that LaBelle Lake Ice Palace is not infringing on their patent. She said that Ice Castle has a very specific patent for harvesting icicles and then putting them together using slush. She said that Ice Palace uses pre-made 8-foot tall ice logs that they use to build the skeleton of structures before spraying them with water.
“If we were infringing on their patent, absolutely, we would back down,” Martin said. “But we have a different system. And every lawyer that we talk to, like every single one, is like ‘oh yeah you’re fine, your system is so different.’ But he’s still holding strong.”
”A lot of the conversations we had with him (Davis) were in early January of 2018,” Martin said. “That’s when we opened up the first year and he sent us a cease and desist letter and we were like ‘woah, woah, what?’ So we talked to him back and forth several times because we didn’t want to go to court. And he kept saying that if we don’t shut down or pay him a percentage of our profits then he’ll take us to court. And we weren’t going to do either of those because we’re not actually infringing.”
Martin says that her father, who created the ice log concept, is also an inventor and has a separate patent on a different project. She says that her father has been making log cabins for some time and it helped inspire the pre-forming ice concept for their ice structures.
“He just thought about it for a really long time and just came up with the idea for pre-forming all the ice structures and at the time we didn’t even know how Ice Castles does it,” Martin said. “We didn’t look into how they do it. We were just trying to figure out how to do it. And we experimented in our freezer in the fall.”
Martin said that they’ve spoken with more than 10 attorneys and each of them told the family that they are not infringing on the patent and that they are confident that they are in the right.
Martin provided a document from the company Lee & Hayes written by Rhett Barney, describing an offer to discuss LaBelle Lake’s legal options.
“Just looking at the claims of the patent that the other party is accusing you of infringing, it looks like it would be relatively straightforward to make this go away; based on the quality of their patent, it doesn’t look like it could be enforced,” the document from Barney read. “And, our initial research indicates that Ice Castles is a small business, which does not appear to generate significant revenue (about US$110k per year), so we suspect their attorneys have taken up this case on a contingency fee basis.”
Despite the continued discussion between LaBelle Lakes and Ice Castles about the difference between icicles and ice logs, the lawsuit is still underway.
Martin says that in a conversation, Davis allegedly told Martin’s father, “You may be right but I don’t care. We are going to break you in court.”
Martin claims that they were told that Ice Castles has $500,000 in an account just for suing smaller businesses who may be infringing on their patent.
“Any money that we’re making from the Ice Palace is going straight to legal fees,” Martin said. “But I’m not sure if that’s gonna cut it. And that was the goal of Ice Castles, to break us in court. He told us that they’ve got $500,000 sitting in an account just for this. Just to shut down small companies that are doing what they’re doing.”
LaBelle Lake Ice Palace currently has a GoFundMe page for donations to help with court fees. On the GoFundMe page, the company is looking to raise $50,000. Martin said that patrons can donate or show support by simply going to the Ice Palace.
“If people wanna just come and support the Ice Palace and just come, that’s amazing, that’s the best you know,” Martin said. “The best help we can get from the community, is by people coming to the Ice Palace and experiencing what we have to offer.”