Are patents good or bad for the end consumer? OK, that’s pretty broad…how about this specific example concerning Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines:
Virgin recently filed this patent infringement case against Delta over Delta’s use of a herringbone-style seating configuration in its BusinessFirst cabin. Virgin Complaint Against Delta
At issue is Virgin’s patent, granted by the U.S. Patent Office two years ago.
The implications for travel buyers are interesting. Virgin came up with a clever way of arranging its seats in the business class cabin. The advantages include easier access to the aisle, and more seats in the cabin for Virgin.
Airlines invest significant sums in their seating designs, and clearly hope to gain competitive advantages by doing so. In this case, Virgin, by virtue of its patent, has the right to exclude other airlines from copying the features covered (claimed) in its patent. Less competition means some combination of more traffic and higher prices for Virgin.
Let’s set aside the issue of whether or not Delta is infringing this patent. The facts are not clear, and Delta likely believes that either the Virgin patent should be invalidated, and/or there is no infringement. Best guess is this will be settled in court within two years.
More importantly, what do all you travel buyers and suppliers have to say about the pros and cons of a supplier who has patents covering elements of its offerings?
Should innovation be rewarded with this form of protection, essentially as a way to create more incentive to risk R&D funds? Or do the implications of paying higher prices for what amounts to a monopoly on a product turn you off? Vote here and let’s see what you all think.
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