Upper Class seat -- no patent or design infringement

In a mammoth judgment of some 344 paragraphs in length, Mr Justice Lewison has ruled that Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class seat patent is valid but not infringed, and that its design rights haven't been infringed either. The ruling, in Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd v Premium Aircraft Interiors Group Ltd and Premium Aircraft Interiors UK Ltd [2009] EWHC 26 (Pat) can be read in full here. Judgment was given on Wednesday, 21 January in the Patents Court for England and Wales. While much of it is taken up with a detailed review of the relevant facts, there's a handy referenced abbreviated "principles of patent construction" guide at paragraphs 182-188 that looks as though it may find its way into students' hearts, if not their brains.

Since it may be a while before any of the IPKat team can read the decision in full and comment on it, this blog is pleased to bring you, thanks to the vigilant Chris McLeod (Hammonds), a link to this short note in Design Week -- a publication that is more focused on the chair design itself than on the legal niceties of patent and design law. According to that note:
"Virgin Atlantic was seeking damages potentially running into tens of millions of pounds and an injunction to prevent Contour selling the seat to rival airlines including Delta, Air Canada, and Jet. ...

The Upper Class seat was designed by Virgin’s in-house design team in collaboration with Pearson Lloyd and entered service in November 2003.

Virgin Atlantic holds the patent and design rights to the seat, and Pearson Lloyd was not involved in the legal action. The consultancy declined to comment on the result.

Paul Carter, chief executive of Contour, says, ‘We are proud of the part we played in the development of the lie-flat bed, and we will continue to use our dedicated design and engineering skills to help our customers set new standards for premium-class air travel'

In a statement, Virgin Atlantic, which plans to appeal against the result, says, ‘We are disappointed with the outcome of the case and will be examining the judgement over the next few days.

‘Virgin Atlantic invests huge amounts in its design and product innovation, and it is a major area of differentiation between us and other airlines'".
Upper Class seats here and here
Other aircraft seats here
Upper Class seat -- no patent or design infringement Upper Class seat -- no patent or design infringement Reviewed by Jeremy on Friday, January 23, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. Great case for educational purposes Jeremy. I single out:

    1) para 283 and 341 as a lesson for drafters of patent applications. Using the dead triangle behind the seat, to increase the length of the bed, was a great idea, new and not obvious, but (sadly) not well enough flagged up as such in the appln as filed. In the divisional, too late, putting that right added matter to the original filing. No wonder the UK has the world's best drafters. They need to be.

    2) Para 186 and 206. BA's GB-A-2326824 as "D1" in the patent in suit, the significance in Rule 29 EPC 1973 of those two inconspicuous words "in combination", and why those who don't know PSA shouldn't have to read a c-i-t claim.

  2. I commend to readers the Summons of Dec 22, 2008 to oral proceedings before the opposition division on March 31. Only one of the three Opponents (Premium, German attorney) thought 100(c) worth a shot so, not surprisingly, the OD was not impressed. So, there we have it: Messrs Comel, Vecchio and Fittante see no problem with new matter yet Mr Lewison does. Another reason to favour English drafters? Meanwhile, I wonder what the OD will decide on March 31, now that they have the English Decision to help them with Art 123(2).

  3. It seems as a very comfortable seat indeed, dispute or not. But what if 2 travellers want to sit together? How would that work out with these seats?
    Take care,


All comments must be moderated by a member of the IPKat team before they appear on the blog. Comments will not be allowed if the contravene the IPKat policy that readers' comments should not be obscene or defamatory; they should not consist of ad hominem attacks on members of the blog team or other comment-posters and they should make a constructive contribution to the discussion of the post on which they purport to comment.

It is also the IPKat policy that comments should not be made completely anonymously, and users should use a consistent name or pseudonym (which should not itself be defamatory or obscene, or that of another real person), either in the "identity" field, or at the beginning of the comment. Current practice is to, however, allow a limited number of comments that contravene this policy, provided that the comment has a high degree of relevance and the comment chain does not become too difficult to follow.

Learn more here: http://ipkitten.blogspot.com/p/want-to-complain.html

Powered by Blogger.