AOPA Responds To Patent Suit

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As expected, AOPA has filed a detailed defense (PDF, PDF) of its FlyQ online flight planning tool against a $66 million patent infringement suit (PDF) launched July 29 by SD Holdings LLC, a Washington State company that holds two patents concerning online travel and flight planning services. AOPA asked the U.S. District Court in Portland, OR for dismissal of the suit or, alternatively, to have the case moved to Maryland, where AOPA is based. One of the attorneys arguing for AOPA is patent attorney Lionel Lavenue, who spoke to Aviation Consumer's Jeff Van West in 2010 about the viability of such suits. AOPA spokeswoman Katie Prybil said the 39-page response disputes the patent infringement claims. "AOPA requests dismissal due to the fact there is no basis for SDH’s patent infringement allegations against FlyQ Web, AOPA’s online aviation flight planning tool that is available to members free of charge," said Prybil in an email to AVweb.  "AOPA explains that SDH does not assert a tenable claim of patent infringement, and therefore that the only allegation of patent infringement is defective, and that SDH lacks any good-faith basis to assert patent infringement against AOPA." SD Holdings says that online flight planning is worth money and it wants a slice for its patents, which cover the "Process for Generating Travel Plans on the Internet" (7,640,098) and the "Process for Generating Computer Flight Plans on the Internet" (8,447,512). SD Holdings says a reasonable price for an online flight planner is $150 and a reasonable royalty is 10 percent. So, $15 times 400,000 AOPA members equals $6 million. Further, it says it has "lost profits" of $150 x 400,000 members for $60 million. AVweb is unaware of any online flight planning tools being offered by any company identifying itself as SD Holdings, and a Google search doesn't turn up any.

The earlier patent (7,640,098) was awarded to FlightPrep, an online flight planning provider owned by patent holders Roger Stenbock and Kyle Everson. FlightPrep took action against a number of online flight planning Web sites in late 2010, demanding licensing fees and a non-disclosure agreement on the nature of those arrangements. A company operating under the name FlightPrep Inc. and offering many of the same services as the former company is now owned by Ross Neher. Neher was the general manager and vice president of FlightPrep when it was involved in the earlier suits. He spoke to AVweb about the nature of the earlier suits in a 2010 podcast interview. According to Washington State records, SD Holdings lists its office at an address that real estate Web site Zillow says is an upscale condo in a heritage building in downtown Spokane.