Much ado about flat-bed seats


Delta Air Lines has emerged somewhat victorious in a law suit involving – wait for it – Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Suite (UCS).

The US major applied for, and received, a summary judgment dismissing a claim by Virgin against Delta for infringement of a patent on the UCS flat-bed seat, which was manufactured by interiors firm Contour.

But in granting the summary judgment in favour of Delta, a UK judge says his decision “does not necessarily deprive Virgin of the possibility of relief against Delta. Virgin may be able to bring a claim against Delta for infringement of one or more of its US patents. It may also, at some point in the future, be in a position to sue Delta for infringement of a European patent (UK) containing seat unit claims.”

So what’s this all about?

Virgin and Contour have been sparring for years, after the former claimed the latter infringed both the patent and unregistered design rights of the UCS. The action related to a design of seat called Solar Eclipse, which Contour was manufacturing for a number of airlines, including Delta.

On 16 June 2008 (months before a trial of the Contour action was to take place) Virgin filed suit against Delta, alleging that Delta was jointly liable with Contour for Contour’s alleged acts of patent and design right infringement.

Similar proceedings were also issued against Air Canada and Jet Airways.

To read the entire history, and the latest judgment, go here. And the next time you’re sitting in first class on any of these carriers, know that a mighty battle is being fought about your seat!

(Photo of Virgin’s UCS from garybembridge’s Flickr photo stream)

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