Bell Helicopter is shortly to resume sales of both variants of its 429 light twin in France, having previously been restricted by a March 2015 court ruling to just the model equipped with wheeled landing gear (WLG).
In its judgement, the Paris appeals court overturned a previous ruling that the production examples of the 429 had not infringed on Airbus Helicopters’ patent covering the design of the skid gear on its H120 and H130.
As a result, Bell’s marketing material for the 429, including its website, has featured a caveat in French warning that only the WLG variant of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW200-powered rotorcraft is available in the country.
However, FlightGlobal understands that Bell has quietly begun the process of removing this statement and is actively promoting both models again in France.
Although the court action continues, Bell believes the patent at issue has now lapsed, removing the restrictions.
The issue has led to at times farcical scenes; although the 429 was demonstrated at last year’s Monaco yacht show, rather than risk an overflight of French territory on its way to the principality, it was instead flown from Italy to land on a ship in international waters, completing the last leg of its journey by sea.
Airbus Helicopters says: “The legal procedure into the infringement of an Airbus Helicopters landing gear patent is still ongoing. We cannot provide further comment at this stage.”
Bell’s move is the latest stage of a long-running dispute that has played out in courts across two continents since 2008.