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Thu, Dec 16, 2010

Buzz Off! Industry Fights FlightPrep Patent Offensive

FlightPrep Seems To Losing The Battle For The Hearts, Minds And Wallets Of The Online Flight Planning Biz...

ANN continues to receive reports of an aggressive effort by FlightPrep (a company owned by Stenbock & Everson) to seek compensation from a number of online businesses that offer some manner of flight planning utility or services... and by and large, this effort is falling on deaf ears.

While FlightPrep apparently scared runwayfinder.com into shuttering its sight after filing a lawsuit claiming over $3 million a month in damages, (and another that reportedly hadn't even gotten a letter from FlightPrep yet), and reaching an agreement with skyvector.com (who reportedly made the deal, which they are not allowed to discuss, based on the anticipated costs of fighting the patent), FlightPrep seems to be waging a losing battle. Industry reaction has been sharply negative while a number of sources indicate that the FlightPrep patent is seen to be "broad and over-reaching."

Further; a number of examples of online flight planning utilities have been cited as IP created prior to the earliest initiation of a patent application by FlightPrep's Stenbock & Everson.

Both industry giant Jeppesen and their client AOPA (which has a 'me-too' flight planning utility built by Jepp) have denied FlightPrep's attempts to seek compensation... simply by deciding that their operations do NOT infringe on the controversial FlightPrep patent and thereafter refusing FlightPrep's attempts to contact them.

ANN has learned that fltplan.com has also taken the path of refusal in that they reportedly believe that the FlightPrep patent has no bearing on their offerings and has refused to offer to compensate an increasingly frustrated FlightPrep.

The latest refusals comes from FlightAware who states that they have "received many calls & emails from concerned FlightAware users wanting to know how the recent FlightPrep patent news affects us.

We normally would not comment on this kind of matter, but we have decided to provide some insight from FlightAware's perspective due to the high level of interest and potential impact on the industry."

FlightAware's Daniel Baker, their Founder & CEO, adds that, "In August and September of 2010, FlightPrep repeatedly contacted FlightAware in order to discuss its newly issued patent. Because our expertise is in software innovation rather than patent litigation, we referred the matter to our patent attorney.

He investigated the matter in depth, and provided our response to FlightPrep informing them that FlightAware did not infringe their patent. We have received no further communication from FlightPrep."

FlightAware notes that, "FlightPrep's patent does not broadly cover all forms of flight planning using the Internet. Indeed the Patent Office Examiner considered prior art that showed flight planning using the Internet, both with and without waypoints.

The scope of FlightPrep's patent claims is thus narrower, and requires details that FlightAware does not do. We remain focused and committed to developing & providing the best aviation software that we can. We encourage everyone, including FlightPrep, to do the same. The recent patent news will not affect our innovation or the services that we provide." 

FMI: www.flightaware.com, www.skyvector.com, www.fltplan.com, www.runwayfinder.com, www.flightprep.com, http://images.flightprep.com/License/USPatent-7640098.pdf

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