The Virgin Group has won a lawsuit in a UK court against Brightline after the US rail operator failed to prove it had the right to cancel a branding deal during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Virgin Enterprises had sued Brightline after the latter cancelled the deal due to alleged negative press coverage around the Virgin brand after owner Richard Branson said that its airline branch, Virgin Atlantic, would need a bailout by the UK government in 2020. 

However, Judge Mark Pelling at London’s High Court ruled that Brightline had failed to prove any of the three issues it argued in its defence, and awarded Virgin $115m in damages as a result.

A Virgin Group spokesperson said: “Today’s court judgement demonstrates the strength of our business and brand following Brightline’s attempts to breach a long-term licencing agreement. We continue to work with the most dynamic partners across the world to bring ideas to life and change business for good.”

The deal between the two companies was first signed in 2018 and saw Brightline renamed Virgin Trains USA before serving its notice of intent to withdraw in April 2020 after suspending its Miami and West Palm Beach service due to pandemic restrictions.

In the rail company’s response to the lawsuit, it said that continued use of the Virgin brand “Marks” would have “repelled customers, investors and employees” from its business rather than attracting them to it.

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By GlobalData

However, in his final judgement, Judge Pelling KC said: “Brightline has failed to prove that the brand [Virgin] had ceased to be a brand of international high repute on the date when it served its Notice to Cure or on the date when it served its Notice of Termination.”

Despite the ruling, a Brightline spokesperson said that this would not be the end of the case, saying: “We’re disappointed in today’s ruling, made in a UK court and plan to appeal the decision.”