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RunwayFinder Shuts Down Over Patent

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RunwayFinder, a popular online flight planning website, announced Tuesday that it was shutting down in the face of a lawsuit from FlightPrep, an Oregon company that successfully patented online flight planning almost a year ago. RunwayFinder developer Dave Parsons said he had hoped to reach a licensing deal with FlightPrep which included the dropping of the lawsuit, which claims damages of $3.2 million per month from RunwayFinder. FlightPrep did offer RunwayFinder a temporary free license while it negotiated terms of a permanent one but Parsons said the lawsuit was a deal breaker. He said FlightPrep arrived at the $3.2 million figure by multiplying the number of unique visits his site receives each month (22,500) by the $149 annual subscription cost for FlightPrep's service. FlightPrep calls the resulting $3.2 million "lost revenue." Parsons said FlightPrep wouldn't drop the suit so he's closing the site, which is used by other sites as a source for information for their own products. In a podcast interview with AVweb, FlightPrep Vice President and General Manager Ross Neher said it's not his company's goal to shut down sites or otherwise disrupt aviation services but RunwayFinder ignored written notification of the patent enforcement. He said taking Parsons to court was a last resort and the only option open to his company under the circumstances.

As AVweb reported almost a year ago, the company got the patent after an eight-year application process with the Patent Office. At one point the patent had apparently been rejected but it was finally awarded last Dec. 29. Neher said that while online flight planners are common these days, his company's was the only one in 2001 when the patent application was filed and that, apparently, is what counts. In the podcast interview, Neher suggested the revenue derived from online flight planners would be a factor in assessing licensing fees and that some free services could remain that way. It has already reached a deal with SkyVector, which is paying a royalty. Neher said many other organizations offering online flight planning have been contacted regarding licensing agreements but declined to discuss the details of those negotiations.

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