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Tradewinds waterslide maker sues Australian company for selling knockoffs

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The company who makes the popular slide behind the Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach is suing an Australian company for ripping off its design and brand.

The Hippo slide is advertised as the biggest inflatable waterslide in the world.

In July 2008 Freestyle Slides signed an agreement with Auset allowing that Australian company to serve as a deal for Freestyle Slides in Australia.

The company purchased three slides from Freestyle in 2008, 2009 and 2010. After not receiving any further purchase orders from the dealer, Freestyle terminated the “dealer relationship” in 2013.

In February 2014 Freestyle again emailed Auset requesting that all of Freestyle Slides’ images be taken down from the Auset website.

According to lawsuit documents, Auset never responded to either email.

It wasn’t until January the owner of Freestyle Slides, Stephen Philip, found out from another business owner that Auset owner, Craig Caruana, was representing his business as an authorized dealer of Freestyle Slides and selling “knockoffs.”

The tipster was Alex Sokolovich, owner of an Asian events company. According to him, he paid a $30,000 deposit for a slide advertised as Freestyle’s popular Hippo. Sokolovich said he did not receive the slide but was sent photographs indicated the slide was not an original Freestyle Slide. In a letter, Sokolovich demanded a refund.

Upon further investigation, Philip found that Auset’s website was indeed still displaying a form to purchase the Hippo and displaying pictures of the Freestyle Slides logo and branding.

On January 9, Freestyle sent a takedown notice to the webhost of auset.com.au. Caruana refused. To date, the images and purchase form are still available on his website.

Later that month Caruana said he would have some of the content taken down and acknowledged the termination agreement. The images were never removed, however.

Philip is seeking damages relating to infringement on his brand, which he has registered. He’s also asking that any proceeds made by Auset as a result of the infringement be paid to him.

The average selling price of one of the Hippo slides is about $65,000. According to lawsuit documents, Freestyle has sold between 15 and 20 of the slides to buyers in Austrailia and the continued brand infringement and misrepresentation with “cheap knockoffs” is hurting the company’s business in that country.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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