Update: For Alpinestars’ response, see the second press release below.
The Munich Court of Appeals has ruled for Dainese and against Alpinestars in a lawsuit over airbag suit technology.
This court battle has been going on for a while now, as Dainese (developer of the D-air airbag technology) has accused Alpinestars (manufacturer of Tech-Air airbag suits) of patent infringement. Dainese has been fooling around with airbag technology for some time now, building its first prototype suit in 2000; they’ve been in MotoGP in some form since 2007, and the D-Air Racing suit launched in 2011. The technology is also available in standalone jackets like the Misano 1000 (launched in 2015) and even other non-moto products, like skiwear.
Meanwhile, Alpinestars has its own line of airbag-enabled gear, Tech-Air. Like Dainese, it first came to market for the roadracing scene, but is also available for street riders, and can even be integrated into some of Alpinestars’ high-end adventure riding suits, like the Revenant jacket.
There are some differences in how the suits are put together, but ultimately, they both rely on smart technology that recognizes a crash, and deploys the airbag to protect the rider from serious injury. And, Dainese believes Alpinestars gear infringes on its patents, and is taking the rival gearmaker to court in several markets. The German case is possibly just the beginning of a protracted legal battle over airbag suit tech.
It’s worth noting Alpinestars’ response (below): “Alpinestars wants to clarify that this action never involved the core of Alpinestars Tech-Air® technology; at no point, either past or present, has any action or patent infringement involved the electronic management, algorithm, or deployment mechanism, or any other part employed within Alpinestars entirely unique and advanced Tech-Air® technology.
Dainese originally won a German court case against Alpinestars in 2017, and this recent decision reinforces the earlier ruling that Alpinestars had violated a Dainese patent. Alpinestars can now take this Munich Court of Appeals ruling to a German supreme court, or else accept the decision.
Accepting the decision means stopping the sale of Tech-Air Street airbag vests and Tech-Air Racing airbag vests in Germany, as well as recalling any of those vests which are still in possession of commercial customers, and compensating Dainese. That’d be an expensive proposition in Germany alone, but even more expensive if the court rulings go the same way in other countries.
See more details of the case in Dainese’s release below:
THE MUNICH COURT OF APPEALS RULES AGAINST ALPINESTARS IN D-air® PATENT INFRINGEMENT
Munich, Germany, February 7 2019 – After a long judicial battle, the Munich Court of Appeals (following the Munich Court decision of First Instance I in August 2017) reached a final verdict that the Tech-Air™ Street airbag Vest (for road use) and Tech-Air™ Racing airbag Vest (for track use and road), manufactured and marketed by Alpinestars, infringe on Dainese’s European patent EP 2 412 257 B1.
This comes after the German Federal Patent Court had previously ruled in 2017 that Alpinestars violated Dainese’s D-air technology; a decision which Alpinestars appealed. The current decision by the Munich Appeals Court in this infringement proceedings is only appealable by way of the German Federal Supreme Court.
The Munich Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Dainese regarding the core issues of the litigation, has issued the judicial order:
1) prohibiting Alpinestars to commercialize the Tech-Air™ Street Airbag Vests and Tech-Air™ Racing Airbag Vests in Germany;
2) ordering Alpinestars to recall any such vests which Alpinestars has supplied since 1 July 2015 and which are still in the possession of commercial customers in Germany;
3) Compensating Dainese for all damages suffered due to the sale of the infringing vests in Germany since 1 July 2015.
This decision is a major victory for Dainese in an intensive patent litigation fight against Alpinestars in Italy, Germany, the UK and France.
Press Release from Alpinestars:
On February 7, 2019 the Higher Regional Court of Munich issued judgment upholding the claim that Alpinestars’ Tech-Air® vest infringes upon patent EP 2 412 257 B1 held by Dainese S.p.A.
Alpinestars wants to clarify that this action never involved the core of Alpinestars Tech-Air® technology; at no point, either past or present, has any action or patent infringement involved the electronic management, algorithm, or deployment mechanism, or any other part employed within Alpinestars entirely unique and advanced Tech-Air® technology.
Furthermore this judgment is limited to the territory of Germany only. It has no bearing on any other territories within Europe or the wider world market where Tech-Air® is available throughout Alpinestars’ Dealer network.
Originally Dainese alleged infringements based on three patents in Germany, none of them refer to Tech-Air® technology: one complaint was withdrawn by Dainese on 22nd December 2016, relating to patent EP 2 373 188, after this patent was revoked by the European Patent Office. The remaining two patents have been contested in Germany. The second, EP 2 373 190, concerning only some specific features of the air bladder used in the Tech-Air® vest, was wholly annulled by the German Federal Patent Court on 15 May 2018. Dainese appealed this decision.
The third, EP 2 412 257 B1, concerning the general installation of an inflatable air bladder construction within a ‘pocket’ of a garment, featuring elastic panels, is the point on which the patent infringement claim was upheld last week. As soon as the Court serves the written judgment, Alpinestars will study the details prior to taking any decision on its next steps.
Alpinestars needs to point out that it has an appeal pending on the validity of this patent (EP 2 412 257 B1) within the German Federal Court of Justice.
As consistently stated throughout this legal process, Alpinestars fully respects and honors third parties’ intellectual property rights and expects the same with respect to its own IP rights. Alpinestars’ highly innovative Tech-Air® products are based upon years of its in house research and development conducted by its own team of leading research and development staff.
Since the very beginning of the Tech-Air® project, which commenced in 2001, the freedom to ride with the most advanced innovations of performance protection has been the objective relentlessly pursued by Alpinestars and the result is uniquely advanced and capable technology. Tech-Air® is the world’s first airbag providing full upper torso protection in a transferable vest which incorporates a completely independent electronic management system, with no reliance on any external devices (sensors or GPS), to give accident detection and full airbag inflation before the first impact, dual charge for the track and off-road capability as demonstrated in the 2019 Dakar Rally.
Alpinestars’ Tech-Air® products represent an enormously innovative contribution to increased rider safety in motorcycling.