The new wheel design is being promoted by World Wheel Group, which includes designer Building Design Partnership Special Structures Group and contractor Bovis Lend Lease. It is expected that the first example is to be built in Prague, but the group is marketing the idea worldwide.
Also involved are other key players on the London Eye project, including Andrew Pugh, designer and owner of leisure attractions, and Poma, the French company that designed and built the Eye’s capsules. The group is also in talks with Hollandia, the Dutch firm that supplied and erected the Eye’s steelwork.
The plan for the Prague wheel has raised the prospect of a legal battle over copyright. A spokesperson for the London Eye told Building: “We are not ruling out taking legal action. But I’m confident that our relationships with our suppliers are such that it will not be necessary.”
The spokesperson added: “We have the copyright on the original concept, which has two unique elements: it is supported on just one side and the capsules are on the outer rim.” The rival wheel also has these features, but it will be built upright in segments rather than being assembled horizontally and raised later, as the London Eye was.
Derek Pike of BDP Special Structures Group dismissed any copyright problems. He said: “Copyright means nothing. I’ve spoken to our solicitors and it’s only copyright for the wheel that was built. If we changed the diameter of the wheel or the distance of the capsules from the rim, the wheel’s copyright would be meaningless.
“We are talking to the same manufacturer of the capsules and I’m absolutely certain that they wouldn’t have approved a patenting of that capsule because it means their market being limited. We’ve been talking to them for some considerable months and they have not mentioned it at all.
Copyright means nothing. I’ve spoken to our solicitors. It is only copyright for the wheel that was built
Derek Pike, BDP Special Structures Group
“They [sponsor British Airways] are trying to frighten people off, I’m sure.”
Pike said the Eye’s designer and joint stakeholder, David Marks Julia Barfield Architects, was not involved in the project. He added that the consortium was considering approaching the Eye’s other stakeholder, Tussauds Group, about operating the Prague wheel.
A source close to BA said of firms’ involvement in the rival project: “Hollandia don’t want to get involved in a rival consortium unless BA London Eye Company are involved because they don’t want to get into a dispute”
A spokesman for Bovis Lend Lease said: “Our Prague office is working with BDP to look at the scheme from a feasibility point of view.”
No one was available for comment from David Marks Julia Barfield Architects. But David Marks had earlier said that he would not allow any replicas of the Eye to be built. Prior to that, the BA London Eye company had been in discussions with Disney. However, the group promoting the rival wheel has now also held talks with Disney.
The new wheel will have 40 passenger capsules – eight more than the eye – and will carry 1000 passengers at a time.