"Patent-Free" Flight Planner Offered

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Seattle Avionics says its collaboration with DTC DUAT offers pilots a "patent-free" flight planning service that avoids all the issues raised by the patent awarded FlightPrep for online flight planning. "While it downloads weather and TFR information from the Internet, it is not an Internet-based flight planner, and is not subject to the recently publicized FlightPrep patent," Seattle Avionics said in a Dec. 24 news release. DTC DUAT is using a basic version of Seattle Avionics' Voyager flight planner for the free service it's offering. Seattle Avionics CEO Steve Podradchik said the basic function of Voyager precludes any infringement of FlightPrep's patent. "As we don't make an Internet-based flight planner, we're clearly not subject to it and have not received any letter from FlightPrep," said Podradchik. "But with so many pilots concerned, we wanted to offer all pilots a free flight planning alternative that is clear of all patent issues."

Meanwhile, the first formal challenge to FlightPrep's patent is scheduled to get under way by Tuesday when RunwayFinder must respond to a lawsuit brought against it by FlightPrep alleging patent infringement and claiming unspecified damages. RunwayFinder owner Dave Parsons initially closed his service in hopes that FlightPrep would drop the suit. When the suit was not withdrawn, Parsons decided to fight the patent and says his goal is to invalidate it. He's forming a trust fund to accept legal defense donations and is in the process of hiring a patent attorney. Backlash to the FlightPrep's enforcement of its patent continues, and at least two web sites, here and here, have been set up to protest FlighPrep's actions.