Norway’s highest court put an end on Thursday to a long-running legal battle between Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and its arch-rival Norwegian Air, ordering SAS to pay Norwegian NOK 175 million (nearly USD 30 million) in compensation for industrial espionage.
The high court (Høyesterett) rejected SAS’ appeal of its conviction by the appeals court known as Borgarting lagmannsrett in March. That court had ordered SAS to pay Norwegian both for damages and court costs after SAS was convicted of misusing proprietary information it had pulled out of Norwegian’s booking system.
SAS had a deal with Norwegian at the time that allowed it access to the booking system, because SAS had taken over domestic airline Braathens, and Braathens had helped Norwegian during its start-up phase.
The deal expired in December 2002, but SAS employees continued to have access to the sensitive information about Norwegian’s ticket reservations. SAS was convicted of exploiting that information to set its own airfares, based on seat reservations at the competition.
A local court in Asker og Bærum ruled that SAS didn’t give up its access until 2005, and thus ordered SAS to pay NOK 132 million in compensation and NOK 6 million in court costs. SAS appealed, only to lose again when the appeals court ordered it to pay NOK 160 million in damages plus NOK 15 million in court costs. That order now stands.
SAS officials told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday that they were “disappointed” but will pay the fine in an effort “to put this behind us now.”
Bjørn Kjos, the high-profile chief executive of Norwegian, was predictably delighted that the high court let the appeals court ruling stand.
“We’re very glad that we can now finally bring this case to an end after Norwegian won in three different courts,” Kjos said. “This shows that the legal system functions, and that unethical practices over time have consequences.”