Significant travel IP claim against global travel division of American Express will proceed in England

The Claim against the American Express Travel Division

Hausfeld & Co LLP’s London office represents Spanish and Panamanian companies, Trappit SA and Trappit Tecnologias SL (Trappit), in a substantial claim against American Express Europe LLC and GBT UK Ltd, American Express’ Global Travel Division, in claims alleging that the global travel company misappropriated a highly valuable and commercially sensitive airfare booking software system (ARPO).

The claim involves allegations that the American Express companies copied Trappit’s ARPO, and then reproduced and marketed the system to American Express travel customers under their own branding. In 2015, Trappit Tecnologias commenced criminal proceedings in Spain against parties that were connected to the defendants. The defendants in the English proceedings had not been included in the Spanish Querella (Claim). The Spanish criminal proceedings were provisionally dismissed by the Spanish court in October 2020.

The defendants’ challenge to the English court’s jurisdiction

Trappit initiated civil proceedings in the Chancery Division against the American Express defendants in the English court prior to the provisional dismissal of the Spanish criminal proceedings. Following service of the Claim Form and the Particulars of Claim, the defendants indicated they intended to defend the claim, but as a first step, contested the jurisdiction of the English court on various grounds, including under Articles 29 and 30 of Brussels I Recast, on the basis, among others, that criminal proceedings had already been commenced in Spain.

Following the provisional dismissal of the Spanish criminal proceedings, the American Express defendants continued to contest the English court’s decision under Article 29 (Lis pendens related actions) on the basis that they were the “same proceedings” as the Spanish proceedings. They did, however, abandon their application to stay the proceedings under Article 30, because there was no longer a risk of “related parallel proceedings”.

In a win for Trappit, Mr Justice Snowden dismissed the American Express defendants’ Article 29 objection on the basis that, “Article 29 thus only applies where there are concurrent proceedings before the courts of different member states at the time when the court second seised makes its determination”. Therefore, the defendants’ Article 29 objection could not survive following the provisional dismissal of the Spanish criminal proceedings.

The defendants had also applied to strike out the claim on the grounds that the English proceedings were an abuse of process, and that application was also dismissed.

The claim will proceed in England

Whilst  the claim between the first claimant (Trappit SA) and the first defendant (American Express Europe LLC) will not proceed in the UK under the terms of a Spanish-law non-disclosure agreement, the remainder of the claims brought by the Trappit claimant parties can now proceed in the English court against the American Express defendants.

The Hausfeld team instructed Sara Masters QC and Josephine Davies of Twenty Essex for the hearing. Tony Beswetherick of Twenty Essex was also instructed.

The full judgment