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Delta Wins Dismissal of Virgin First-Class Seats Suit

Delta Air Lines Inc., the world’s second-biggest carrier, won the dismissal of a Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. U.K. lawsuit over a patent for flat-bed seats.

Virgin, the long-haul carrier controlled by billionaire Richard Branson, sued Atlanta-based Delta in 2008 over claims that its seats, designed by Premium Aircraft Interiors Group Ltd., infringed Virgin’s patent. The British carrier “has no real prospect of establishing infringement,” Judge Richard Arnold in London said in a judgment today.

The ruling “does not necessarily deprive Virgin of the possibility of relief against Delta,” Arnold said. “Virgin may be able to bring a claim against Delta for infringement of one or more of its U.S. patents. It may also, at some point in the future, be in a position to sue Delta for infringement of a European patent containing seat unit claims.”

Delta asked the court at a hearing Nov. 17 to dismiss the lawsuit and determine that it doesn’t infringe the patent on the Solar Eclipse seating system. The case had to be decided before Delta could add the seats to a planned 30-million pound ($46.6 million) retrofit of 32 aircraft in 2013, the airline’s lawyer, Mark Vanhegan said.

Virgin is “disappointed with the result” and will seek permission to appeal, said Janine Doy, a spokeswoman for the Crawley, England-based airline.

“Virgin Atlantic invests huge amounts in its design and product innovation and it is a major area of differentiation between us and other airlines,” Doy said in an e-mail. “We will always seek to protect our assets and brand from other airlines, seat manufacturers and others to ensure our intellectual property rights remain protected.”

Virgin in October 2009 won a patent lawsuit accusing Premium, a U.K. maker and designer of airplane cabins, of infringing the same patent.

The case is Virgin Atlantic Airways v. Delta Air Lines, Case No. HC08C1577, High Court of Justice Chancery Division.

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