Lawsuit Claims Red Bull Stole Idea for Altitude Freefall Record Attempt
October 13, 2010 — The Red Bull Stratos Program, which was attempting to break the altitude free-fall record set 50 years ago, has been suspended pending litigation by Daniel Hogan, who says the record attempt by Red Bull in its current form was his idea first. Hogan claims in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles in April that he approached Red Bull in 2004 with his idea. Hogan said, according to Courthouse News Service, that Red Bull was initially interested in the project but pulled out after a year of talks. The lawsuit claims that Red Bull deliberately used the negotiation time to extract as many details about the project as possible before ending the talks.
In a statement issued by Red Bull GmbH and Red Bull Inc., the company said that many over the years have tried to break the record and some of them have attempted to work with Red Bull to this end.
“Mr. Hogan claims to own certain rights to the project and filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit earlier this year in a Californian court. Red Bull has acted appropriately in its prior dealings with Mr. Hogan, and will demonstrate this as the case progresses,” the statement read. Red Bull spokesperson Maddy Stephens said in an e-mail response to EAA inquiries: “An early resolution of the case was attempted, but was not possible. As a result, we decided to stop the program until this case has been resolved.”
Daniel Hogan says at the time he had approached Red Bull he had already assembled a team, which included hot air balloon altitude record holder Per Linstrand, whose company, Linstrand Technologies, would build the balloon; a Russian company would build his pressure suit, a former NASA flight surgeon would assist, and a filmmaker would document the project. Hogan claims that the stunt would be worth $375 million to $625 million in advertising to a corporation that sponsors the event.
EAA asked for several specifics about the lawsuit, but Stephens declined to offer any additional information other than what was contained in the prepared statement, saying Red Bull does not comment on pending litigation. Stephens said that no technical issue has delayed the project, but it will not resume until the lawsuit is settled.
Earlier this year Red Bull announced the Stratos program and listed Austrian Felix Baumgartner as the person who would attempt the high altitude freefall from 120,000 feet, which included an attempt to exceed the speed of sound. Baumgartner has been a Red Bull athlete for the past 20 years.
Joe Kittenger, who set the current record in 1960, was recruited to consult on the project. Red Bull also announced partnerships with the BBC and National Geographic to produce a documentary, as well as corporate support from Microsoft and Nokia.