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'Red Bull Stratos' grounded by lawsuit

An Austrian extreme sports athlete’s attempt to jump out of a balloon in from an altitude of 36 kilometres has been postponed after a businessman claimed he was robbed of his idea.

Daniel Hogan launched legal action against Red Bull. The American entrepreneur claims he approached the Salzburg-headquartered energy drink producer with the idea of breaking several world records by parachuting from a balloon at the edge of space already in 2004. Red Bull have taken care of sponsoring and marketing measures regarding Felix Baumgartner’s bid.

The former soldier hit the headlines several times in the past with spectacular stunts like crossing the English Channel in freefall using a special fibre suit in 2003. The 41-year-old set the world record for the lowest BASE jump ever by throwing himself off the outstretched hand of the "O Cristo Redentor" statue in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.

Baumgartner planned to stage his latest stunt in the US State of New Mexico later this year. A series of complex training jumps and various preparations have kept the Salzburg-born daredevil busy during the past few months. Dozens of renowned engineers and scientists were assigned by Red Bull to work on the project.

Baumgartner was set to break the sound barrier in the descent from the stratosphere in the project which now seems to be at risk. Baumgartner said recently he planned to retire from extreme sport activities after "Red Bull Stratos".

Red Bull, Austria’s most powerful global brand, explained it decided to put the project on hold until the legal case clarified.

Hogan claimed he provided detailed technical and marketing proposals to Red Bull for his "Space Dive" project. He said firm officials were enthusiastic and already discussed investing several millions of US dollars into the project.

"They told me they would put everything they had behind the project," he said in a recent interview.

Hogan – whose lawsuit is not being dealt with by the California Superior Court in Los Angeles – presented an e-mail from Red Bull informing him in October 2005 that the company "would not like to continue our joint work" on the project.

"I was devastated at that point. I didn't understand it," he said. Hogan added: "This was my idea, from start to finish."

Hogan alleges Red Bull – which was listed in 82nd place in market research agency Millward Brown’s 2010 study of the most powerful firm brands in the world – defrauded him not only by illegally using his technical ideas, but also by adopting his original plans to generate a global media hype.

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