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FlightPrep Responds

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Editor's Note:

In my earlier blog on the FlightPrep patent, I complained that they were not responsive to some basic questions. Here's what they had to say, unedited.

Russ Niles
Editor-in-Chief
Q: What does FlightPrep's online flight planning patent mean for the industry? A: It means that we have a patent for a specific online flight planning technology. People should read and analyze it to determine if there is any concern that it may affect them. If there are any questions from the industry, users, or media, please ask us. FlightPrep's intent with the patent is to use it to promote the technology through partnerships with other companies to broaden the use of online planning throughout the aviation community. Our intent is not to drive other companies out of business, prevent development of online planning tools, or stop developing our own products. Q: Why does FlightPrep "invite secret discussions" about the patent? A: As Mr. Lavenue stated in your interview, we cannot simply say publicly or otherwise "we believe company XYZ is infringing on our patent." What we did was ask for some companies to have confidential conversations with us regarding our patent. Businesses sign confidentiality agreements every day to protect the interests of both parties involved. Every business, including AvWeb, has data and information they do not wish to broadcast out via a news flash or someone's blog. It is simply the way businesses work. Whether that data is payroll, advertising dollars, inter-business agreements, product, or healthcare costs, it is confidential to the businesses involved. Q: Despite RunwayFinder shutting down, FlightPrep has not dismissed the lawsuit, why? A: RunwayFinder dismantling their website was not ever a goal for FlightPrep and we have extended a temporary license to run their site while we work towards a long term license agreement. The details of the license will be mutually beneficial. We know that what the public wants is a website back up so they can use it. We have consistently stated that we want the website up and running. The suit goes away in a few very simple and easy steps: we sign a mutual non-disclosure statement, RunwayFinder hears what we have to say, we hear what RunwayFinder has to say, we work out a license agreement and the suit is dismissed as part of that agreement. We are stuck at step 1 in this process; Mr. Parsons will not sign a mutual non-disclosure statement. Some ask "why don't you just drop the lawsuit?" Our reply is that it took a lawsuit to finally get a reply. If we drop the suit without some type of agreement in place, what assurance is there that RunwayFinder will negotiate any license agreement? Q: Did FlightPrep ever think there would be a petition website against them or forums filled with comments swearing never to buy their products? Or that end users would be provoked and start turning out in significant numbers to fight a perceived injustice? A: We had not anticipated that this much misinformation would be published about our company. We are not at all interested in alienating the GA community. Good pilots weigh all options and gathers all information before making decisions and we hope that reasonable pilots out there will consider that there is much more information than is publicized. We have spoken with countless people and replied to many emails. For the most part, we have received emails and phone calls asking us to explain ourselves and what we are trying to do. We are letting people know that we want the lawsuit to go away as much as anyone, and a license agreement will do just that. Most people that email or call FlightPrep are working off of only partial information and once we enter into a discussion with them, they let us know that their true hope is for everyone to work together. This is exactly what we are trying to do. We still hope for a fast and mutually beneficial resolution to this matter. We've also received a number of emails and threatening phone calls made against our employees that we had to turn over to the police. Some of these emails that we received made us worry about that someone would try to physically harm one of our employees or their family members. Those types of comments and promises of action are unnecessary and uncalled for here. Q: Why doesn't FlightPrep "take on AOPA and Jeppesen?" A: FlightPrep has been in contact with AOPA regarding our patent and online planning technology since 2007. We will certainly look at their technology and make our own assessment in due time to determine whether or not we agree or disagree with their recently published statement. For now, we are currently assessing the situation and will advise should our position change. Q: Regardless of how carefully formulated your business plan is, does FlightPrep accept the fact that it ain't working? A: We are a business in the aviation market that has a patent and we are working with other businesses regarding that patent. It's in the best interest of our business to protect and promote our patented technology. Q: Has FlightPrep "turned a well-respected man and his family's (not a company, a family) life upside down for what may be just a few misdirected emails?" A: This is a dispute between two businesses. It is not a personal issue between Mr. Parsons and anyone at FlightPrep. We have worked very hard to try and resolve this issue with RunwayFinder. Now that RunwayFinder has finally retained competent counsel, we see this as favorable sign that RunwayFinder is preparing to work toward an amicable solution. As we have said many times, we are ready to settle this matter as soon as RunwayFinder is ready to have a conversation with us.

Comments (65)

I believe it to be a mistake for NavMonster or SykVector or anyone to acknowledge that Flight Prep has the moral authority to issue a license, by accepting one. As I understand it they applied for the patent in 2001 and it has only recently been awarded. In the decade between other smart people have developed the obvious idea of on-line flight planning and brought the idea to fruition - something Flight Prep has yet to do. They prefer to use their (questionable) legal authority to suck the life out of others. That's just BS. I say Flight Prep is a paraiah and deserves only our scorn - certainly not our business.

- Mike

Posted by: Mike Thompson | January 3, 2011 5:11 AM    Report this comment

Agree. This is a company that deserves nothing from the GA community. We are a small community and we all need each other to survive. Somebody coming along with something like this is simply a pariah on our already stressed community. GA does not need people like this as we all strive to survive and feed our passions.

Posted by: John Fulton | January 3, 2011 6:02 AM    Report this comment

1. A license should not be required where no infringement has been proven. Has FlightPrep offered a license that specifically states that there has been no determination that infringement has occurred? Does the license include a statement that the meter is no longer running on the claimed damages of 3.2 million per month (absurd)?

2. If RunwayFinder had responded in the same manner as Jeppesen and AOPA, would you have filed the lawsuit?

3. It's the best interest of every company to provide a superior product, and a superior service to SERVE THE CUSTOMER. FlightPrep has shown that they value legal maneuvering and profiteering over aviation in general.

Now it is in the best interest of the aviation community to move away from flightprep in favor of companies that choose to SERVE the community.

The aviation community will not survive if the companies in the space use the legal system as an attempt to extract profits from other companies.

Innovation is not a patent. If you innovate and serve your customer, you get a situation like RunwayFinder where customers will rise up to defend it against attack.

Unfortunately this response is FlightPrep talking around the issues. I am glad that they think they are doing what is best for this business. I would love to hear the answer to the question after they go out of business.

Posted by: Brent Humphreys | January 3, 2011 6:44 AM    Report this comment

So, in layman’s terms, FlightPrep seem to be proposing, “let's have a man to man discussion regarding your choices – (1) how expensive our imposed 'Agreement' shall be, or (2) how the lawsuit and potential damages may ruin you?” Wow, these are two mighty fine choices. Am I right to suspect the “competent Counsel” comment means RunwayFinder should now be tortured for surrendering peacefully, so that others think twice about shutting shop without paying royalties? This looks, smells, tastes, feels and sounds disgusting and I doubt anyone will waste the time to search for decency in FlightPrep’s motives. Greed does nothing but stifle innovation. I recall the Sith Lord claiming to be frail and weak too. This has a remarkably similar texture.

Posted by: Stuart Hutchison | January 3, 2011 6:47 AM    Report this comment

Mr. Cannon,

Whether or not the USPTO thinks so, the industry thinks FlightPrep's patent is obvious. I have read the patent, and to me it reads, "Server-side online flight planning, and a bunch of other crap the USPTO made us put in so it wasn't so damn obvious". Or perhaps, "Mapquest for pilots". Again, you're all geniuses for coming up with that one.

Posted by: Nicholas Stolley | January 3, 2011 6:55 AM    Report this comment

I just went to flight prep facebk page and there is no way to post a coment on their page.

Posted by: charles heathco | January 3, 2011 7:24 AM    Report this comment

Charles

That is because FlightPrep deleted any dissenting posts, and blocked future comments.

They use social media, only to the point where they benefit.

The minute the community (they tried to use) disagrees with them, it becomes "The collective rage of a misguided mob"

There is another Facebook page where your opinion will be heard. Search for "Facebook Patent Trolls". No comments, supportive, or negative will be deleted there.

Posted by: Brent Humphreys | January 3, 2011 7:31 AM    Report this comment

I will gently note that if you wish to participate in this discussion, you are more than welcome. But please observe our request to keep the conversation civil. No name calling, please. I deleted one post that stepped over the line.

Thanks.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 3, 2011 7:37 AM    Report this comment

Why would anybody desire online flightplanning over harddrive installed programs? I use Voyager(no affiliation)which is by far one of the best flight planning software on the planet. Perform your own D&D. Get with the program boys and girls. Online flight planning is nice, but interconnects can be broken, saving your work on your system can be a pain, making changes can be almost impossible. Online flight planning programs are for glitter, and not serious work. Search for a proffessional program that can be downloaded and installed on your system with backups tailored to your prefferences, then go to work. Downloaded programs can also be used on your I-Pads. Proffessional programs use DUAT(S) for updates with free data provided by the government and your tax dollars paying for it. To save argument, do I have to release my software that was written in 1991 cornering the market? I think a million or so people say NO! I wonder, should GARMIN sue Mapquest or TOM-TOM, and vive verse, or do they all own each other? Sounds very sexual to me :-)

Posted by: Joeseph Gawlikowski: JoesPiper | January 3, 2011 7:40 AM    Report this comment

Curious if people are going to boycott Skyvector and Navmonster? The license fee goes to FlightPrep every time you use it, thus funding the "enemy". What is the consesus here?

Posted by: Shawn Henderlong | January 3, 2011 8:20 AM    Report this comment

Saw it the first time. I for one will not use them until I hear details of the "agreement".

I would be suprised if FlightPrep got a license fee per user, but probably some percentage of Gross Revenues.

I am not going to judge either of those companies. They had to do what they perceived as best for their business. However, my boycott of flightprep extends to any company that partners with, promotes, or endorses flightprep.

Posted by: Brent Humphreys | January 3, 2011 8:26 AM    Report this comment

I think this 'boycott anyone associated with FlightPrep' is extreme. It's a distraction from the core issue and risks linking non-affiliated entities. It's much easier to simply choose not to do business with FlightPrep.

As for this Q&A, Travis' responses cemented my dislike for FlightPrep. Their 'but were the victim of a misinformed Internet mob', is as condescending as it is 'patently' ridiculous.

Posted by: Jason Devine | January 3, 2011 8:32 AM    Report this comment

Sorry didn't mean to double post. Hit the back button and didn't realize that the message got posted again.

Posted by: Shawn Henderlong | January 3, 2011 8:35 AM    Report this comment

That is the only way to effectively get FlightPrep to see the error of their ways. The idea of a Boycott is not to make a statement. It is to adversely affect the companies bottom line. Since that is their obvious motivation, it is necessary.

Flightprep talks about the uninformed public, but every move they make is to hide their own actions. What they are more upset is that the public is informed about how they choose to do business.

I would soften my stance if FlightPrep acted the same way to AOPA, Jeppesen (with dedicated legal departments) as they do to the single guy providing a service, and innovating on his own.

Instead flightprep uses double speak saying that a lawsuit was the only recourse they had available to get RunwayFinder to respond. But, when AOPA, Jeppesen choose not to respond, FlightPrep's response is "we are currently assessing the situation".

Using the same logic FlightPrep is using to defend it's actions against RunwayFinder, I would expect a lawsuit to be filed soon.

However, they won't. They know this patent is shaky, and they would rather use the legal threats against companies that are less able to finance a legal battle.

If FlightPrep believes in their constitutional rights so much, they are duty bound to file suit indiscriminately. That is simply not the case, despite what FlightPrep says.

Posted by: Brent Humphreys | January 3, 2011 8:44 AM    Report this comment

If this was an honest business, and not a shakedown, it would not begin with a NDA. That is Tony Soprano telling you that he has a business proposition for you, but first you have to meet him in a dark alley.

Leading with the NDA says all that needs to be said about the people involved on that side of the negotiation (and the actual value, versus the shakedown potential, of their "product." )

This is not a standard business approach in any legitimate business on earth (and yes, I've been in IP negotiations and been in meetings where all subjects of discussion were a complicated weave of classified and proprietary information. But these were all with firms that actually produced something, goods or services -- not with underachieving patent trolls).

And yes, I've dropped SkyVector. Like a hot rock.

Posted by: Kevin O'Brien | January 3, 2011 8:45 AM    Report this comment

I for one will never deal with FlightPrep again! I will not penalize the companies that are being shakendown by FlightPrep because they are just fighting for their survival.

Posted by: Walt Weaver | January 3, 2011 10:34 AM    Report this comment

For your entertainment, do a Google search for "Monster Cable patent lawsuit". This company sues anyone using "Monster" in their name unless they have a "licence agreement" to use the word "Monster". Most are small businesses who don't have funding for lawyers. I read an article where they actually sued a miniature golf business - Monster Mini Golf. FYI -they sell overpriced stereo interconnect cables...nothing to do with miniature golf. What the h#ll???

Sounds like FlightPrep might be taking lessons from them. Maybe Mr. Lee (Monster's CEO) has a seat on FlightPrep's board.

Hey Mr. FlightPrep....why do you spend you funding on innovation instead of attorney fees....maybe the aviation community will benefit more from better products that come from competition rather than sub-par products that come from a patent monopoly.

Hopefully our community has a patent attorney who is willing to challenge these guys - pro bono.

Posted by: mark schroeder | January 3, 2011 2:09 PM    Report this comment

I'm in the market for an EFB and after this BS, I'll certainly not be buying one from Flightprep. Companies that use patents on obvious things (especially software patents) to bully competitors shouldn't be patronized.

Posted by: John Merryman | January 3, 2011 9:36 PM    Report this comment

Regardless of the merits of the FlightPrep patent, aviation is a small community.

If you throw your weight around, or otherwise get to be known as a jerk or undesirable, you're dead.

I prophecy that after all the press they are getting because of this misstep, FlightPrep will have very little business going forward, having lost any they might have had by essentially word of mouth.

Small community. There are not so many customers you can afford to alienate any.

Posted by: Steve Waechter | January 4, 2011 1:58 AM    Report this comment

Unfortunately for the innocents falling prey to these lawsuits, the only answer is a boycott of any service that leads to revenue for flightprep.

Posted by: Grant Carruthers | January 4, 2011 6:31 AM    Report this comment

At this point it's clear to me that they've essentially decided to abandon their products market and double down on squeezing money from the patent. It's the only thing that make sense given what they actually say. I mean Travis make ZERO MENTION of their products business or any concern for adverse impacts on it. It's 100% about the patent. They've put all their eggs in the patent basket so the best thing we can do is contribute to the legal fund to challenge it.

Posted by: Jason Devine | January 4, 2011 8:24 AM    Report this comment

For those of you stating that you will no longer purchase FlightPrep's services, but will continue to patronize businesses bullied into a license agreement by them, are essentially still doing business with FlightPrep -- albeit indirectly. If you also discontinue the use of products or services from FlightPrep "licensed" companies, other companies will be less inclined to comply with FlightPrep's tactics in the future. It's an unfortunate situation for those companies faced with licensing or closure, but there is no other way to send a clear economic message to FlightPrep that their chosen business model is unacceptable to the aviation community. I for one will not being using, considering, or even acknowledging products or services offered by FlightPrep and it's "licensed" affiliates regardless of the quality or convenience. If I have to return to using a paper chart, a plotter, and the E6B to flight plan, I will -- and that is not hyperbole -- those methods have been highly successful for mariners and, more recently, aviators for hundreds of years.

Posted by: Todd Nelson | January 4, 2011 10:10 AM    Report this comment

Sun-n-Fun and Airventure are just around the corner. I for one plan to stop by the Flightprep booth daily and loudly tell them that I think they are patent trolls and that their business practices are doing great harm to the aviation community and finally that I'll NEVER do business with them.

Even the oblivious leadership at Flightprep will get the hint when they hear something like this a few thousand times from their "customer base" over a week. This will also be a very visible yet non-aggressive form of customer protest.

No threats, nothing aggressive, but I plan to do my part to ensure that potential customers at the Flightprep booth hear that this company is harming our shared passion.

Posted by: Jeff B | January 4, 2011 11:59 AM    Report this comment

The question is, if they show at SnF and Oshkosh is it chutzpah or cluelessness?

Posted by: Jason Devine | January 4, 2011 12:16 PM    Report this comment

I plan on having a large selection of novelty dog poo available for anyone who wants to give flight prep a symbolic message matching what they are giving the GA community.

Posted by: Brent Humphreys | January 4, 2011 1:18 PM    Report this comment

I think Walt is right. Punishing the victims of FlightPrep's bullying is wrong. Runway is indeed a hero here, but I won't kick a man when he's down.

As for the idea that supporting SkyVector and NavMonster will somehow fund FlightPrep's lawsuit, I find that to be somewhat far-fetched.

SkyVector, NavMonster, and RunwayFinder are all in the same financial situation. FlightPrep has publicly stated that they are open to free or nearly free licensing terms for such outfits. I doubt that the all royalty fees, if any, from NavMonster and SkyVector combined would amount to one day's worth of attorneys fees.

If you're really concerned about the money factor, do what I did and contribute generously to RunwayFinder's defense fund and then enjoy the fine and (still) free sites.

If you are still worried, just try REALLY hard to not click on the ads. That way you can enjoy the free service without possibly funding FlightPrep.

My $0.02

-Jim

Posted by: Jim Pinter | January 4, 2011 9:32 PM    Report this comment

Flightprep is being vilified for...what exactly? Enforcing a patent? Most companies do it. Using an NDA? Common practice. Asking usurious license fees? I don't believe their fees are public. Shutting down a website? Site owner's decision. Imperiling pilots by making flight information scarce? Plenty of great and free sources still available. Sending threatening emails under a false name? Conjecture so far. Using bad business tactics? Maybe. They're certainly getting a lot of PR from this Internet storm. Because the patent office is inept and/or patent law is obsolete? That might be true, but Flightprep isn't the cause.

Many might choose not to use Flightprep products and services. I think that's great insofar as that's how a free market should work. But, the invective launched to date in Flightprep's direction seems over-the-top at best and, at worst, without significant merit.

Posted by: Jack Moses | January 5, 2011 2:06 AM    Report this comment

In response to the previous post by JM; if it is all so clear and honest why do they step out of the ring with Jeppesen and AOPA? I think most pilots fully understand what is going on here

Posted by: Uwe Nitsche | January 5, 2011 3:14 AM    Report this comment

I like how Flightprep takes a guy working out of his garage to court but not the big guys. Why not go after the big boys?.... they actually have money to loose. It is probably because if their patent were challenged in court.. it would not stand. What would it take to challenge their patent in court?

Posted by: Andre Abreu | January 5, 2011 10:05 AM    Report this comment

I hate to say it, but I don't feel very good about using SkyVector and NavMonster anymore. Even if they never pay a dime to FlightPrep, they caved in to a bully instead of standing with the GA community and fighting for what is right. They are like scabs during a strike - taking the short money and looking out for themselves instead of standing with their brothers. It is especially galling that NavMonster claims to have given in due to "popular demand". I'm sure no one asked them to get in bed with FP - they did it out of their own self interest. For now I will use EAA/AeroPlanner and AOPA. I am boycotting FlightPrep, ASA, NavMonster and SkyVector.

Posted by: Craig Morton | January 5, 2011 11:53 AM    Report this comment

Seems to me that "flightprep" is trying to come off as the victim in this whole affair. What a crock. Truth is that they brought this on themselves by serving notice to the online flight planners that they intend to profit, financially or otherwise, from the hard work that others put into making online flight planning a reality by forcing licensing agreements for their "patented technology". "flightprep" continues to arrogantly push their flimsy "patented technology" (drawing lines between points on charts) on companies without the deep pockets to defend themselves. I find it disturbing that a company founded by pilots would go about their business in this manner. While good pilots do weigh all the options and gather all information before making decisions it can also be said that good pilots don't go about extorting gain, financial or otherwise, from other pilots.

Posted by: Edward Figuli | January 5, 2011 1:02 PM    Report this comment

JM, FlightPrep has reaped this backlash by their actions which include: 1) Pursuing a multi-million dollar infringement law-suit against a one guy operation who's taken his site down, while passing on the big players (AOPA, Jeppesen) 2) Shaking down the entire online flight planning industry 3) Whining about how unfair the "internet mob" is

They gambled with their patent shakedown strategy and are losing.

Posted by: Jason Devine | January 5, 2011 1:43 PM    Report this comment

"They are like scabs during a strike"

Right. And if they hadn't made their deals, RunwayFinder wouldn't have been sued.

Is that really what you think? You are really going to blame SkyVector and NavMonster for FlightPrep's actions?

This isn't a strike, you know. If everybody "hangs together" the patent won't just go away. This isn't American Idol or Dancing with the Stars.

Flightprep has already decided they don't care to win in the court of public opinion. They will fight their fight in a court of law, where easily won licensing deals with defenseless small websites mean absolutely nothing.

Posted by: Jim Pinter | January 5, 2011 1:47 PM    Report this comment

I have to say that I find the conduct of Flight Prep to be reprehensible, and the issuance of a patent for such an obvious 'invention' to be a joke. If anyone out there can come up with a patent on frivolous patents, I think we can put this to rest. Just my substantially devalued two cents worth.

Posted by: Ken Anderson | January 5, 2011 8:49 PM    Report this comment

FlightPreps insisting on a NDA before they will talk to companies and then going after the small companies that have less resources to defend themselves first tells me all I need to know about FlightPrep. I will never knowingly do business with FlightPrep or ASA or any business conected with the owners of FlightPrep.

Posted by: Rick DeBord | January 6, 2011 7:30 AM    Report this comment

JM: Your comment, "This isn't American Idol...," is unnecessarily condescending to everyone participating in this conversation. Whatever point you were making is now lost.

Posted by: Todd Nelson | January 6, 2011 9:10 AM    Report this comment

I think many of the people who are ranting that the patent is frivolous and obvious haven't actually read it. In short it involves displaying a smoothly scrolling map via a web browser on which a course line and weather can be overlayed. Obvious now, but pretty leading edge back in 2001. Back then sites like MapQuest would have to redraw the entire map when you wanted to scroll around. That's it. They don't claim to have patented on-line flight planning as many seem to be thinking. In fact the biggest infringer today is probably Google Maps.

That said, I do have problems with this patent in that it was filed in 2005 but they seem to have gotten it back-dated to 2001. If one takes the 2005 filing date as the real date then most of the sites we're talking about--including RunwayFinder--pre-date it. But back in 2001, not so.

Posted by: Richard Beebe | January 6, 2011 12:29 PM    Report this comment

The patent seems frivolous as more than 5 people/companies developed it simultaneously including Runwayfinder which is reported to be a one man home operation. If it's so earth shattering and deserving of a patent it seems it wouldn't have been so universally achieved by such meager competition.

Posted by: Grant Carruthers | January 6, 2011 12:39 PM    Report this comment

As a skilled practitioner of the art, on the face of it, the FlightPrep innovation looks unremarkable, obvious, and not deserving of patent protection. After reading FlightPrep's apparently unedited explanation above, I can say I will never knowingly buy anything from them and will do my best to avoid their licensees.

Gentlemen, your actions have harmed GA. Congratulations.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | January 6, 2011 1:34 PM    Report this comment

This is reminiscent of the Wright brothers' patents on airplanes.

Posted by: Thomas Yarsley | January 7, 2011 9:04 AM    Report this comment

I don't think any business who refers to their current and potential customers as an angry mob would incline me to do business with that company. Perhaps a reading of Mary Grady's blog about the "new" bottom line would be a good idea.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | January 8, 2011 5:07 AM    Report this comment

If Richard Beebe's explanation of the patent, above, is correct, then here is my thought on the issue. If other online planners are producing a smoothly scrolling map using EXACTLY the same technology (software/hardware/programming) as specified in a patent, then requiring a license from them is legitimate. But, if it's simply the fact that the map scrolls smoothly, regardless of the method used to achieve that, the patent should never have been applied for nor granted, and any enforcement is simply legalized extortion. Granting and enforcing a patent on the printing press is fine, but granting and enforcing a patent for putting words on paper by any means whatsoever, not so much.

Posted by: Mark Consigny | January 8, 2011 9:54 AM    Report this comment

One other thought - simply claiming that "we thought of it first" and then trying to claim patent rights over others who implemented it more quickly or better, is petty. Some ideas are obvious - snow tires, for example. Allowing someone to have a patent on the idea of snow tires would be ridiculous, but allowing them to protect a particular rubber compound, tread design, or other feature, is legitimate. It seems to me that this is a case of someone trying to patent the idea of snow tires.

Posted by: Mark Consigny | January 8, 2011 10:03 AM    Report this comment

Wow! Their answers to your questions seem to have been highly sanitized by a bevy of lawyers. I find it amusing when they answer the questions they wanted to answer instead of answering the questions that you asked. I appreciate the efforts you have made to get a real answer to real questions. Unfortunately, what you got out of them was ZERO. Maybe they think we're stupid...

Posted by: Bob Levittan | January 10, 2011 2:45 PM    Report this comment

"This is reminiscent of the Wright brothers' patents on airplanes."

@Thomas Yarsley: As a professional software developer, I assure you it isn't.

It's more like a patent on the idea of securing your shoes to your feet with a piece of string.

Posted by: Jarrod Menoube | January 12, 2011 10:27 PM    Report this comment

Search facebook for "Boycott FlightPrep! " for another place on Facebook to share information and post your opinions about FlightPrep and their patent enforcement.

The tone of FlightPrep in this interview is very condescending, "If you knew what I knew you'd agree that I'm right". I can't wait too see this business die on the vine.

Posted by: John Russo | January 14, 2011 11:23 AM    Report this comment

Is it an invention? believe FlightPrep’s invention is an obvious idea and therefore it should not be entitled to a patent. Sure using the internet for flight planning is obvious. The same is going to Mars in rocket.

An idea does not an invention make. In 2001 Aeroplanner had a system that delivered a small static map. But delivering the specific planning charts, waypoints, route and weather dynamically over the internet was very difficult in 2001 – no one had really done this. The FlightPrep developers figured out how to do create a flight planner that had the look and feel of a disk based flight planner with the convenience of an online flight planner.

It is HOW an idea is developed into a new workable embodiment that others can replicate it that makes an invention. Up until 2001 a lot folks thought it would be great to flight plan on line. But o one had yet invented one. This invention shows how this was done. The description along with all the drawings show how all the elements work. This included the processing done at the server, and client computer; the generation and downloading of all the maps – and so forth.

I submit that while the idea of an internet flight planner is obvious – the execution and thus the invention is not – and was certainly not so in 2001. I further challenge those who believe otherwise, to provide one example where anyone else, prior to 2001, was able to do this.

Posted by: Mitch Slater | January 16, 2011 7:15 PM    Report this comment

If it is an invention, is the inventor entitled to profit from it.

This is a philosophical question http://2fly.com/?p=234&cpage=1#comment-908 provided some interesting insight. There are those who believe that for the good of aviation FlightPrep should not enforce the patent and let everyone use the technology without a license. While others, mainly business men and those having to show a return on the money spent in R&D and concerned with making a payroll, would argue it is proper to receive a modest and fair license royalty.

For those who disagree with this argument, I invite them to join Boycott FlightPrep.com and put a damper on the next business considering spending time and money developing the next invention. Perhaps it’s better not to spend the money on R&D and just use the product of someone elses work. I submit that those who believe in this philosophy enjoy getting something for nothing and are upset that FlightPrep had the nerve to go the extra mile to protect the fruit of their labor.

Posted by: Mitch Slater | January 17, 2011 12:19 AM    Report this comment

Mitch, you argument has nothing to do with the situation. Flight prep did nothing. They developed nothing. They did no work other than expend brain power observing the obvious and then they had the nerve to claim a patent on the idea - and the patent office made a bad call giving it to them. No one has infringed on anyone's work - if anything every single person who DID THE WORK to take the idea and make a usable product from it, are the ones coming under the Flight Prep gun now.

Posted by: Mike Thompson | January 17, 2011 5:33 AM    Report this comment

Mitch. I agree with your statement. The FlightPrep patent explains, in technical detail, their "invention".

The problem is, the specific technology they describe and the method for applying it is obsolete (the use of Frames particularly). So, they are attempting to enforce their patent not based on the original invention, but based on what you agree is the "Obvious" part, that is, any Web based, online flight planner with maps and courselines. This is where I call BS.

Posted by: Jason Devine | January 17, 2011 11:14 AM    Report this comment

"The problem is, the specific technology they describe and the method for applying it is obsolete "

Mike, “Flight prep did nothing. They developed nothing.” Really? Have studied the patent? Have you invented anything?

“No one has infringed on anyone's work - if anything every single person who DID THE WORK to take the idea and make a usable product from it,”

. But they didn’t in 2001 and that’s the point, and they may be infringing now.

Jason, I agree, it may be obsolete now, but it wasn’t in 2001. Unfortunately the PTO takes very long to issue patents, and when they do, much of the technology may be obsolete. But the protection begins only after the patent is issued.

I suggest that those wanting to use the obsolete patent use some other non-obsolete technology so they won't infringe on the FP patent. Apparently RunwayFinder insists on using the FP obsolete patent without paying for a modest license. So instead we have this huge pissing contest in the courts. The way I see it, RunwayFinder brought this on itself.

Posted by: Mitch Slater | January 17, 2011 7:10 PM    Report this comment

(Part 1) Mitch. Are you a web developer or an attorney?

I am not so arrogant to state something like "only a competent patent attorney can make a legal opinion as to whether a product does or does not infringe on a particular patent" as FlightPrep does.

I can tell you, as a person who does web development as a part of my job, and has done it since 1997, that there is nothing in that passes my BS test.

Further, forget prior art (although, I know there is), the patent is and should be invalidated based on the requirement that a patent be "Non-Obvious".

Looking at the Graham Factors established by the courts as a test of this condition, I am positive that this patent is invalid.

Posted by: Brent Humphreys | January 17, 2011 7:28 PM    Report this comment

(Part 2) Even if you disregard all of that, my biggest issue with FlightPrep, their tactics, and how they continue to contradict themselves.

FlightPrep stated that filing suit was the only means available to get RunwayFinder to respond to their inquiry. They said they were left with "no other choice".

As you may have read AOPA/Jeppesen were sent a similar invitation. To which, the responses was a very simple. No.

Using the same logic, FlightPrep is left with "No other choice" but sue AOPA and Jeppesen. Yet no suit has been filed.

The explanation if obvious. Both of these organizations have the staffing and resources necessary to put this patent to the test.

FlightPrep chooses to attack smaller companies to strengthen there claims. That is the cornerstone of my opposition to flightprep.

I have seen nobody, in any forum, in any way attempt to address these questions.

Further, shame on Avweb in their interview for not pushing for real answers to the questions they asked.

Posted by: Brent Humphreys | January 17, 2011 7:29 PM    Report this comment

Have (you) studied the patent? Have you invented anything? Why yes, I've read the patent. Typical lawyer mumbo-jumbo written by lawyers for lawyers. And no, I haven't a patent to my name. Does that disqualify me from having an opinion in this matter? I have a good nose, and I smell BS.

Posted by: Mike Thompson | January 17, 2011 8:43 PM    Report this comment

Brent, “Further, forget prior art (although, I know there is), the patent is and should be invalidated based on the requirement that a patent be "Non-Obvious". Please provide me with your prior art citation. Do you even know what constitutes prior art? Apparently, after almost nine years of patent examination, the PTO does not consider it obvious and actually had the gall to issue the patent. Did you invent an internet flight planner before 2001, or anything for that matter? Come now, you are just upset you didn’t think of it first and invent your own. “FlightPrep chooses to attack smaller companies to strengthen there claims. That is the cornerstone of my opposition to flightprep. I have seen nobody, in any forum, in any way attempt to address these questions” How about this? Only a suicidal business would take on the likes of Boeing/Jeppesen, or AOPA (assuming that there is actual infringement). You might want to google “claim chart”, or better yet, talk to a patent attorney, he’ll explain to you the best way to protect one’s IP. So you are correct, from a sound business perspective, enforcing an invention is best done in an even playing field. And that is precisely what we have more or less.

“As you may have read AOPA/Jeppesen were sent a similar invitation.”

Really, No I’ve not read this. Please provide me with the patent numbers. Brent, If you want to make a point please base it on reality; otherwise this whole discussion is meaningless.

Posted by: Mitch Slater | January 17, 2011 9:10 PM    Report this comment

Its well documented that flightprep has contacted many other companies regarding this patent. http://www.aopa.org/flightplanning/articles/2010/101214AOPA_Flight_Planner_does_not_infringe_on_patent.html

Using the same logic flightprep used to justify their suit against runwayfinder, flightprep should be filing suit anyway now.

But they lack the conviction they claim to have.

As far as prior art. Map quest, yahoo maps, the list goes on and on. Their is nothing new or inventive about applyingnthe same thing to aviation. That is simply a different APPLICATION of existing technology.

It is well documented how some of the most ludicrous patents get granted, so let's not consider a patent infallible until it has stood up to a serious challenge.

Flight prep choosesnto enforce a bad patent, and the rest of the aviation community has chosen to not do business with them. Was that a sound business decision?

Posted by: Brent Humphreys | January 17, 2011 9:33 PM    Report this comment

Brent,

"Map quest, yahoo maps, the list goes on and on"

Sorry, but Map quest, yahoo maps did not have dynamically sized scrollable interactive tiled maps with waypoint route overlay in 2001.

I ask again – do you know what constitutes prior art, or are you just guessing?

Posted by: Mitch Slater | January 17, 2011 10:02 PM    Report this comment

Brent,

"Why yes, I've read the patent. Typical lawyer mumbo-jumbo written by lawyers for lawyers. And no, I haven't a patent to my name. Does that disqualify me from having an opinion in this matter?”

It does not disqualify you from having an opinion. But it does disqualify from asserting “facts” on issues on which you are ignorant.

For example you state as fact “Their (si) is nothing new or inventive” yet admit your lack of understanding “lawyer mumbo-jumbo”, an opinion would have been expressed as “In my opinion there is nothing new or inventive “

I am not a software engineer. I would not express as fact the intricacies of software code. Yet, I’ll express my opinion on such code, ensuring the audience understands my ignorance in that discipline. But I would not refer to it as software mumble jumble.

That’s the problem with mumbo jumbo – sometimes it takes a lawyer to explain the difference between opinions and statements of fact.

I rest my case.

Posted by: Mitch Slater | January 17, 2011 11:43 PM    Report this comment

I can't disagree more. Mapquest definately had resizing, scrollable maps well before 2001.

Also, Microsoft had a technology demonstration site called Virtual Earth (I believe). It was developed to demonstrate data storage capabilities for the SQL Server product that was released in 2000. It demonstrated all of these capabilities.

Posted by: Brent Humphreys | January 18, 2011 5:28 AM    Report this comment

Well here we are back at square one. Flight Prep has patent law on their side. Whoopee. The fact remains that no matter how hard I search I cannot find a single on-line flight planner developed and produced by Flight Prep from which all other flight planners stole the idea. All I (and many others) see is a person waving a paper in the air saying, "Hey! I thought of that first! Now pay me!". One thing this patent-law-ignorant aviator knows is in the court of public opinion their case has been bungled and lost.

Posted by: Mike Thompson | January 18, 2011 5:31 AM    Report this comment

Mitch

Since you seem to be speaking for FlightPrep, please answer.

Flightprep claims that they had no other choice but to Sue Runway Finder in order to discuss the patent, since they would not respond. The same is true for Jeppesen, when will the suit be filed?

If no suit, why then did you choose to sue RunwayFinder under similar circumstances?

Posted by: Brent Humphreys | January 18, 2011 5:32 AM    Report this comment

"Mapquest definately had resizing, scrollable maps well before 2001."

Prove it!

"If no suit, why then did you choose to sue RunwayFinder under similar circumstances?"

Ask and answered!

Posted by: Mitch Slater | January 18, 2011 9:12 AM    Report this comment

Mitch, you made a rhetorical error in your response to my point regarding obsolescence. Specifically "I suggest that those wanting to use the obsolete patent use some other non-obsolete technology so they won't infringe on the FP patent.".

You make the assumption that it's fact that sites like RunwayFinder violate the patent and use the "obsolete" technology. THEY DON'T. HTTP frames as a means of tiling images is not used. The specific technical methods for displaying tiled maps and courselines, as described in the patent, are obsolete and NOT used in modern Websites. So, FP is overlooking that fact to claim infringement based on the simpler fact that a site displays maps in a browser and allows courselines.

I believe the technical facts regarding implementation details of what you agreed was, at least functionally, something obvious, will be the primary basis of the RunwayFinder's defense. Maybe there's prior art, maybe there isn't, but technically speaking no one uses 10 year old HTTP/Web browser technology today. So, if the case is based on the technical method for achieving charts/courselines, then I think the patent will be found meaningless in terms of current technology. However, if courts initially agree that FP has rights to the general idea of a browser based flight planner, then there will be a much bigger fight.

Posted by: Jason Devine | January 18, 2011 10:21 AM    Report this comment

Jason,

I think you hit the nail right on the head. It’s not a question weather the patent is valid – right now it’s presumed to be because the PTO issued it. It’s question weather or not there is infringement on the claims by RunwayFinder. As I said earlier, I’m not a software scientist, so I’m ignorant in that area. – This will be sorted out by computer experts, lawyers and the courts. Good analysis!

Posted by: Mitch Slater | January 18, 2011 6:41 PM    Report this comment

I continue my boycott of FlightPrep, ASA and any business related to Stenbock and Everson. They are evil patent trolls and I have yet to find a worthy replacement for RunwayFinder.com.

It is sad that many people have forgotten the damage Stenbock et al have done to the industry.

Posted by: Michael Baraz | April 9, 2013 9:03 AM    Report this comment

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