Virgin Atlantic’s legal actions threaten Delta, Jet Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Air Canada

In 2003 Virgin Atlantic introduced the “Herringbone design” seat layout in it’s “Upper Class” on which it had spent £50 million designing.

Contour, the Welsh seat manufacturer that built these seats for Virgin, sold the unusual design to other airlines. Virgin claiming that it owned the patent on the seat design took Contour to court to stop it making any more copies. Virgin’s argument was initially rejected, but the UK Court of Appeal recently upheld their patent application.

It is almost certain, that Virgin will file for an injunction against Contour to prevent it making any more of the seats. In parallel Virgin is taking legal action against US carrier Delta, Air Canada and India’s Jet Airways, all of whom bought the Herringbone seats from Contour. Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific is also facing similar legal action for buying similar seats from another manufacturer.

If Virgin’s legal action is successful all these airlines could be forced to remove these seats from the planes and refit them with other cabin seating, which would be extremely expensive and time consuming.

It is more likely that these affected parties will try and reach and out of court settlement with Virgin and pay many millions.

Update 1 – October 27

The court decision is available via this link
The patent documents are available via this link

Thanks to the knowledgeable folks at

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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