Zodiac escapes damages in Virgin Atlantic patent dispute

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French seat manufacturer Zodiac Aerospace has won its appeal against a court ruling that it must pay Virgin Atlantic £49 million ($75 million) in damages for infringing a patent.

The UK's Supreme Court allowed the appeal on the grounds that Virgin Atlantic's 2007 patent for a flat-bed seat had "been retrospectively amended so as to remove the claims held to have been infringed" by Zodiac's Solar Eclipse unit.

"Although we are naturally disappointed with the decision, it only covers one element of a historic and long-running intellectual property dispute," says the airline. "Virgin Atlantic invests heavily in design and product innovation, and this is a major area of differentiation between us and other airlines. We will always seek to protect our product and brand to ensure our intellectual property rights remain protected."

Jonathan Radcliffe, an intellectual-property partner at law firm Mayer Brown, says the Supreme Court has "overturned one of English law's longest standing IP principles, that an IP owner is able to recover damages for infringement of a right even if that right is subsequently revoked or amended".

He adds: "This has restored sanity and logic to an area of law which many IP litigants have long seen as unjust and plain wrong."