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BDP claims its giant wheel is 'fundamentally different'

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bdp has hit back at David Marks Julia Barfield Architects after the ba London Eye designers accused the giant multidisciplinary outfit of copying its successful and 'unique' London wheel design.

Last week it emerged that bdp is part of a team, including developers, funders and constructors, looking into building wheels abroad similar to the structure which has caused major queues since it was erected on the South Bank late last year. Potential clients include Disney, initially rejected by Marks and Barfield in its quest to build a second larger wheel in Florida with 40, not 32 capsules, and the city of Prague. Contractor Bovis Lend Lease and Hollandia, the Dutch firm which erected the steelwork of the structure, is also involved in the World Wheel Group consortium, exploring what bdp calls the 'commercial potential of the invention'.

News of the plans led an angry David Marks to question bdp's 'intellectual honesty' in attempting a copy of a design for which he part-owns the copyright. 'It raises my eyebrows to see a company like bdp do such a thing,' he said. 'Surely they know they can't get around it by saying they'll build it differently? I'd suggest it's extremely ill-advised, because we'll vigorously protect our interests.'

But bdp has hit back by issuing a statement that it devised a concept for 'the method and process of construction for major wheel structures which is significantly more economical than that used to build the London Eye'. The practice added that the construction method it conceived led to a 'wheel design which is fundamentally different in engineering design from that of the London Eye'. And it said it moved to protect the concept by filing a European patent protection for 'the construction of large vertically arched structures', which the patent office confirmed bdp was free to disclose from January 13 last year. bdp followed this up by making an international patent application in December 1999.

bdp's Derek Pike said that his design for bdp's Special Structures Group differs from the ba London Eye because it can be erected in segments in an upright position rather than horizontally. But Marks insists he wants ba London Eye's 'unique' nature preserved - through the courts if necessary. 'We're not going to sit by,' he said. 'We're not pursuing a legal approach at the moment because I believe bdp will do the right thing. You don't have to copy the wheel - we have plenty of other ideas for landmarks that can be created for cities up our sleeve. Has the company lost every ounce of creativity ?'

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