The facts presented below are based on official public records and excerpts from online resources. Some of these resources contain highly technical and/or detailed information. We urge those wanting to form an informed opinion to seek the advice of a qualified professional prior to making final judgement.
Myth: FlightPrep sued a company and did not attempt to contact them first.
Fact: Well before any lawsuit was filed, FlightPrep invited RunwayFinder to confidential discussions regarding the patent, including at least two certified letters - all of which went unanswered [see Notification Letter for one example].
Myth: FlightPrep shut down RunwayFinder.
Fact: FlightPrep actively encouraged RunwayFinder remain up and running and to that end offered a free license during negotiations. This offer was put in writing in a letter to RunwayFinder from our attorneys, as well as stated publicly on our blog [see http://blog.flightprep.com/2010/12/flightprep-grants-runwayfinder.html].
Myth: FlightPrep shut down FlyAGoGo, NACOmatic, or other websites.
Fact: FlightPrep has not asked anyone to cease operation. NACOmatic cited decreased donations and uncertainty regarding the patent litigation between FlightPrep and RunwayFinder [see http://www.nacomatic.com/]. FlyAGoGo offered no reason for the termination of their site [see http://www.flyagogo.net/].
Myth: FlightPrep is demanding 3.2 million dollars in the lawsuit against RunwayFinder.
Fact: FlightPrep has not asked for any specified money amounts [see Complaint]. An amount of 3.2 million has not been demanded. Any other information is hypothetical in nature and a breach of Rule 408 of the Federal Rules of Evidence [see http://www.uscourts.gov/uscourts/RulesAndPolicies/rules/EV2009.pdf].
Myth: RunwayFinder was free for users and shouldn’t have to get a license.
Fact: Regardless of RunwayFinder’s revenue model, an owner of a patent has the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the patented invention for the term of the patent [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent]. For a popular example, review the A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc issue [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%26M_Records,_Inc._v._Napster,_Inc.].
Myth: RunwayFinder is a non-profit company.
Fact: RunwayFinder is a for profit company [see http://www.sos.wa.gov/corps/search_detail.aspx?ubi=602969158 or http://blog.runwayfinder.com/2010/12/09/runwayfinder-going-offline/].
Myth: FlightPrep is a big corporation.
Fact: FlightPrep employs just a handful of employees (4 employees to be exact) and is considered a small business by the US Small Business Administration [see http://www.sba.gov/contractingopportunities/officials/size/table/index.html].
Myth: FlightPrep and Aviation Supplies & Academics, Inc. (ASA) are the same company.
Fact: FlightPrep and ASA are separately owned and operated companies [see http://www.asa2fly.com/ or http://www.flightprep.com/]. FlightPrep co-founder Roger Stenbock authors aviation training videos that are sold by ASA.
Myth: Patents should not be granted for software and web based applications, and if granted, should not be entitled royalties.
Fact: “Royalties are typically agreed upon as a percentage of gross or net revenues derived from the use of an asset or a fixed price per unit sold of an item of such” [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royalties].
Many professionals agree receiving royalties is fair. A good summary of this argument was made in the article “The Debate Over the FlightPrep Patent Fight and Patents in the Digital World” from 2Fly [see http://2fly.com/?p=223].
“Many commentators have argued that extending patents to code and software is beyond the scope of the intent of the patent clause. We can agree that the Wright Brothers deserved a patent for inventing the airplane and Nicholas Tesla deserved a patent for inventing AC current… but can an online calculator be so protected? Is code an invention?
“Why not? How is constructing code different than constructing a new feature on an airplane?
“While it’s unfortunate that many good website tools may face license fees over this patent issue, the inventors of FlightPrep - assuming the patent is valid - deserve to be compensated for their work. And, with the filing of the patent, all the other companies had knowledge that they may run afoul against a future patent.”
Myth: Obtaining and protecting one’s patent is bullying, immoral, evil, unfair, or shameful.
Fact: Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the Constitution states that the Executive branch shall ‘promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries.’ The USPTO states, “under this system of protection, American industry has flourished. New products have been invented, new uses for old ones discovered, and employment opportunities created for millions of Americans. The strength and vitality of the U.S. economy depends directly on effective mechanisms that protect new ideas and investments in innovation and creativity. The continued demand for patents and trademarks underscores the ingenuity of American inventors and entrepreneurs. The USPTO is at the cutting edge of the Nation's technological progress and achievement” [see http://www.uspto.gov/about/index.jsp or http://www.uspto.gov/faq/patents.jsp].
Myth: FlightPrep’s patent was filed in 2005, not 2001.
Fact: Item 22 on the cover page of US Patent 7,640,098 [see US7640098] shows a filing date of Sept 28, 2005. Item 62, on the same cover page, shows a division of application with an original filing date of July 31, 2001. The earlier of the two dates applies [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_application#Divisional_applications].
Myth: There is a lot of “prior art” that makes the patent worthless.
Fact: Item 56 on the cover page of US Patent 7,640,098 [see US7640098] shows a list of 40 references cited by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) during the eight years of its examination. The patent was examined under all the relevant statutes codified in Title 35 United States Code [see http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/consolidated_laws.pdf] and all the relevant rules under Title 37 Codified Federal Regulations [see http://www.copyright.gov/title37/]. A patent is presumed valid. Only a Federal Judge, through a contested dispute, may adjudicate invalidity. And only a competent patent attorney can make a legal opinion as to whether a product does or does not infringe on a particular patent [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_infringement].
UPDATE: AVweb has conducted an interview with patent attorney and pilot Lionel Lavenue of Finnegan. In the interview, Mr. Lavenue talks about patents and the legal process surrounding them [read the AVweb story or listen to the podcast].
We'll continue to update this list as needed. If you have questions or concerns about our online flight planning patent, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.