Virgin Australia has prevailed in a trademark battle with Rex over the latter’s use of “Economy X” branding for its premium economy service.
Costs have been awarded against Rex, which attempted to trademark “Economy X” for itself after refusing to remove the designation from seats on 737s formerly operated by Virgin. Rex leased the planes to launch its capital city routes while the rival airline was in administration during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21.
In its arguments, Rex asserted that Virgin had never formally trademarked the “Economy X” branding, and that the rights to the IP were murky considering Virgin’s 2020 acquisition by hedge fund Bain Capital.
However, Registrar of Trade Marks delegate Nicholas Butson ruled that Virgin had provided sufficient evidence that it created Economy X and had used the branding before Rex, saying that “authorship and use of a trademark” was enough to establish ownership.
“This ground does not require [Virgin Australia] to establish that it is the owner, merely that there is an earlier claim to ownership based on use by someone other than [Rex],” he said.
In a statement to The Australian, a Virgin Australia spokesperson said the airline was “pleased with the decision which found the airline had clearly established use of the Economy X mark over the past six years”.
“Virgin Australia’s Economy X product was an Australian-first when it was launched in 2017, providing our economy guests with extra legroom and an enhanced travel experience,” the spokesperson said.
Rex made the move from solely regional flights to servicing the Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane “Golden Triangle” three years ago, leasing a number of ex-Virgin 737s to take on Virgin and Qantas on capital city routes.
Making the announcement in 2020, Sharp suggested that Australia “may as well” have a three-airline market, noting that the new and improved Rex was likely to sit “halfway between a full-service airline and a low-cost airline”.
“The domestic aviation market is not going to go back to what it was three months ago so we are ready to scale up in line with demand,” he said.
“We are doing this because we see an opportunity. We have the advantage of having successfully run an airline for 18 years.”
Rex has since rebranded its premium economy service to “Rextra”.