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Small Firm Sues Wham-O, Calling New Disk a Spinoff

November 26, 1987|Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — A small company trying to get its new flying disk off the ground is suing the maker of Frisbee for $100 million, charging trademark infringement and unfair trade practices.

The feud pits Sandeen Inc. of Hayward, Calif., and its SpinJammer disk against Wham-O Inc., which is marketing a similar new product called Ripspinner.

Wham-O, based in San Gabriel, is part of Kransco Manufacturing Co. of San Francisco.

Cone-Shaped Center

A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 14 before U.S. District Judge Raul Ramirez on Sandeen's request for a preliminary injunction.

At issue is a flying disk designed with a cone-shaped center that enables it to be easily twirled on a finger.

Wham-O says it made disks with cones 20 years ago.

But Michael Sandeen of Walnut Creek, Calif., says he invented the product, which gained him publicity in People magazine last May. His sister, the company's chief administrative officer, says Sandeen Inc. may have to fold if it fails to obtain the injunction.

"We definitely believe this has hurt our orders," Cathy Sandeen said. "If a toy buyer has a choice, is he going to buy the Frisbee brand rather than ours? Absolutely. We're just a small company with one product."

She said the similarity in the products' names is meant to cause confusion in the marketplace, a violation of federal trademark laws.

Michael Sandeen says he got the idea for the product while driving his truck. He went home, designed it and raised $50,000 from family members and friends to create the first mold for the plastic disk.

Financed by Friends

They demonstrated the SpinJammer at county fairs in the summer of 1986 and raised another $1 million from family members, friends and banks to produce and market them. The company estimates that it has shipped 200,000 disks since they hit the market a year ago in October.

Wham-O, which is advertising its Ripspinner in preparation for having it on store shelves soon, plans to argue in court that not only is the concept not new, Sandeen copied its packaging.

"We've been using that package for 10 years for our most expensive Frisbee," attorney Stuart Schneck said.

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