Mobile, Ala. (WKRG) — New larger overhead bins in Airbus’ newer A320 aircraft were said by one publication to be the ‘holy grail’ of overhead bins on aircraft. But now the use of those new larger overhead bins has landed the aircraft maker in federal court in south Alabama.
Airbus Americas, which operates two final assembly lines in Mobile, has been named a defendant in a patent infringement lawsuit that claims the technology that allowed the larger bins to be created was stolen.
Harper Engineering of Renton, Wa. is suing Airbus supplier, FACC of Austria, and Airbus Americas. Harper alleges they invented the flush hinges that allow greater space in the new overhead bins.
In the complaint, Harper claims they met with FACC in 2017 and subsequently responded to a ‘request for quote’ to provide the new hinge design, and provided the company with its confidential design. Harper had received two patents for the hinges. But after not being able to come to terms, FACC rejected Harper’s offer.
Harper claims the invention of its flush hinges is significant in allowing as much as 40 to 60 percent more space inside the overhead bins. Previous bins used hinges that protruded into the bin reducing the space available.
Harper said in 2018 during the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, FACC showed a mock-up of what it called its Airspace XL bins to be used on Airbus A320 aircraft. Employees of Harper saw the mock-up and realized the bins used Harper Engineering’s trade secret technology.
According to the lawsuit, the bins are currently being installed on new A320 and A321 aircraft being assembled at the Airbus FAL in Mobile.
The lawsuit was filed in October 2020. So far, neither Airbus Americas nor FACC has responded to the complaint.