Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Enterprises Ltd. won UK court ruling over brand rights on US trains worth about $115 million.
(Bloomberg) — Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Enterprises Ltd. won UK court ruling over brand rights on US trains worth about $115 million.
The company sought the amount after Brightline Holdings LLC, a Fortress Investment Group-backed trains operator in the US, abandoned its 20-year deal to use the Virgin brand less than two years after signing for it. Brightline terminated the agreement in 2020 alleging the Virgin brand “repelled customers, investors and employees” from its rail business.
“Brightline has failed to prove that the brand had ceased to be a brand of international high repute,” Judge Mark Pelling said in the ruling published Thursday. “Although it was suggested by Brightline that its standing with consumers was damaged by its continued association with Virgin, there is no evidence that is so.”
An adverse ruling would’ve dealt a severe blow to Virgin’s brand value and hampered earnings from existing branding deals and future opportunities.
“Today’s court judgment demonstrates the strength of our business and brand,” a Virgin Group spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Brightline plans to appeal the decision, its spokesperson said. Fortress declined to comment. Brightline terminated the deal with Virgin because continued use of the Virgin brand would have caused “material damage” to the train operator’s reputation and business, Brightline’s lawyers had said, according to the judgment.
The ruling over Brightline’s high-speed rail — then called Virgin Trains USA — is the second crucial victory for Branson in the UK this year. In February a UK court ordered that Alaska Airlines Inc. must pay the multi million-dollar royalties for the Virgin brand for years to come even after it stopped using it.
(Updates the amount of claims in the headline and the first paragraph and details from the judgment in the sixth paragrah. An earlier version of the story corrected the amount Virgin Enterprises is seeking.)
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