In the last few hours, Bell and Eurocopter have issued press releases (reproduced below) claiming they have both won the same court case, which was about copyright infringement of skid design used on the early Bell 429 prototypes. It would appear that Bell changed the design as soon as Eurocopter first issued an injunction. Thus Eurocopter claim a win because the court ruled against Bell, while Bell say they win because the court found their later design did not infringe any copyright.
HeliHub.com thought these were mature companies who acted in mature ways. Wrong! Today they act like children having little temper fits at each other. Grow up, guys, please! This issue does not need to create press releases and it makes both of your organisations look foolish.
Jeremy Parkin - HeliHub.com
Eurocopter release, issued 1pm GMT
In a lengthy ruling issued on January 30, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that Bell Helicopter intentionally infringed a patent of Eurocopter and awarded punitive damages and an injunction to Eurocopter. The patent covers an innovative helicopter landing gear design that Eurocopter developed and implemented on its EC120 and EC130 models.
In its findings, the Court determined that Bell leased a Eurocopter EC120 helicopter equipped with the patented landing gear, studied the design of the gear, and created a “slavish copy” to be used on its new 429 model. Remarkably, when Bell employees raised concerns internally regarding similarities between the Bell landing gear and Eurocopter’s patented design, Bell’s management instructed engineers simply to “carry on.” The Court held that “This is a case of willful blindness or intentional and planned misappropriation [by Bell] of the…invention.”
Significantly, the Court determined that “Bell has misled and continues to mislead the public into believing that the Bell Model 429 is the first helicopter to use a sleigh type landing gear.” In fact, as the Court found, Bell “decided to import and copy the unique and new patented technology developed by Eurocopter.” Ultimately, the Court concluded that “Bell’s overall conduct is highly reprehensible and constitutes a callous disregard for the rights of Eurocopter.”
Accordingly, the Court found that Eurocopter was entitled to punitive damages due to both Bell’s infringement and its “deliberate and outrageous conduct in this case.” The Court has not yet determined the amount of damages due to Eurocopter. Finally, the Court issued an injunction enjoining Bell from manufacturing, using, or selling the infringing landing gear, and also ordered Bell to destroy all infringing landing gears in its possession.
As soon as Eurocopter filed the case, Bell quickly redesigned the landing gear on the 429 model. The Canadian court held that the redesigned landing gear did not infringe Eurocopter’s Canadian patent. Eurocopter is evaluating its options in this regard. Eurocopter has also filed claims in Washington, D.C. and Paris, France, contending that Bell’s redesigned landing gear violates Eurocopter's patents.
Eurocopter fully intends to continue defending its know-how and innovative technology, which has greatly contributed to its positioning as the world’s leading helicopter manufacturer.
Bell release, issued 7pm GMT
Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company announced in the case of Eurocopter vs. Bell Helicopter that the Canadian Federal Court has ruled that the current Bell 429 production skid gear, which was at the center of the case, does not infringe the Eurocopter ‘787 Patent. All Bell 429’s have been and will continue to be delivered with the current production gear.
“We are pleased with the court’s ruling that the current Bell 429 production skid gear does not infringe the Eurocopter ‘787 Patent, “ said John L. Garrison, President and CEO of Bell Helicopter. “Integrity is at the core of who we are as a company and what we believe. Bell Helicopter would never knowingly violate the intellectual property of others.”
The Court found 15 of the 16 claims of Eurocopter’s Canadian patent invalid. The Court did find that one of the 16 claims was valid and was infringed by the original, pre-production sleigh skid gear, however, this original skid gear was never placed into production or sold to a customer. “While we respect the Court’s opinion, based on prior art, we believe that the patent should never have been granted for the sleigh gear design. We are considering an appeal on the findings of both validity and infringement,” said Garrison.
“This ruling is a victory for Bell Helicopter, validating the design of the 429 production skid gear” said Garrison. “We intend to continue to vigorously defend the production gear in the pending infringement suits in the U.S. and France. We believe the Canadian court’s decision provides strong support for our position and remain optimistic that we will obtain positive results in those courts.”
The Bell 429 is the world’s newest and most advanced light twin-engine helicopter. It has set the standard for light twins; delivers exceptional speed, range, hover performance and enhanced safety margins, with comfort and cost management unmatched by any competitor. With superior speed, best-in-class cabin volume, state-of-the-art glass flight deck that enhances crew situational awareness, and Bell Helicopter’s industry leading support and services, the Bell 429 is quickly becoming the preferred aircraft in the light, twin-engine market.
The Bell 429 was certified in 2009 by Transport Canada, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). It was recently granted an exception by Transport Canada to operate at 7500 lbs gross weight.
The Bell 429 is in service today with aircraft operating around the world. “We look forward to continuing to offer the Bell 429 with its current skid gear which is generating significant interest and excitement worldwide - performing well in all of its missions”, said Garrison.
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