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  • 81

When Bad Patents Hurt Good People: Patent Threat Shuts Down Flight Planning Site

Submitted
The Electronic Frontier Foundation published an article on the Flightprep patent abuses. The EFF runs a [https://w2.eff.org/patent/wp.php patent busting project] where they fund legal defenses against bogus patents. Huge organization with tons of cash...you do not want these guys against you. (www.eff.org) More...

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tyketto
That's what I'm talking about!

Now that the EFF is involved, something definitely will be happening, whether it being FlightPrep being taken to court over their actions, or the USPTO reconsidering their patent or removing it outright.
N441LC
N441LC 0
I pray this flight prep goes away very fast. I"ve never bought anything from them and never will, also nobody in my pilot circle will either. I will be writing a letter to the owner of flight prep who is a pilot and who's home address on landings.com under the pilot search i found. I will be letting him know how dissapointed i am with this flightprep company. His dirty business practice will stop I hope.
GuyPigg
Guy Pigg 0
I guess I am still at a loss as to what the details are of the patent violation that Flightprep is claiming. None the less, this is not positive and in no way will help anything except fatten a pocket. (Appologies for overuse of previous statement) Hope also that EFF can do something to stop this.
murrellp
murrellp 0
Looks as tho the freebee users are going to have to pay a little to get services.
JBReinertsen
@murrellp: highly doubt it. Flightprep isn't really looking to be around long in my book. They're charging for a service others are able to offer for free. Sure they might be able to shut some sites down, but all in all, in the end, flightpreps doors will shut as no one buys their product.
klimchuk
klimchuk 0
It's good time to shut FlightPrep down
Scoob
Scoob 0
I subscribed to FP's product not too long ago and hated it from day one. After this patent silliness, I downloaded their latest version and I can say that, in my opinion, it is the worst excuse for a planner that could be possible. If you haven't tried it... DON'T... it is less than worthless. If they built a good product, they wouldn't need a patent for protection.
jeyrivera89
Jesus Rivera 0
Such Garbage. Who needs FP when we got FlightAware
schwin
schwin 0
The details of this story are extremely vague, I don't have any idea what the real issue or violation is? As a person who has been granted several patents (outside of the aviation industry) I can tell you that a patent does not give me the right to stop anybody from making a product. What it does is protect me from other people making MY specific product. A lot of time and money goes in to any invention, why would anybody invest in a new invention if somebody else could simply copy it and in turn sell it for a profit? Possibly putting the true inventor out of business? Does that "promote innovation"? I think the author of this story (and a lot of people posting replies) would think differently if they had ever invested their family's savings in to an idea only to later have it stolen by someone else. How is it that the bad guy in this story is the person who came up with the idea and the good guy is the person who stole the idea?
RivetDriver
RivetDriver 0
@schwin: I totally support safeguarding legitimate reasonable intellectual property rights. I, too, have multiple patents issued to me. But have you read the FlightPrep patent details? You say you don't know the whole story ... and I think if you did you might have a different viewpoint. Go do your homework. Their "invention" is not novel, unique, or (in my opinion, as someone who has been involved successfully in the software patent process) worthy of having been granted a patent. What FlightPrep needs to do is create a quality product, not engage in patent troll behavior with a patent not worth the paper its printed on. What they are doing may be legal, but it isn't right, and the'll never see my business.
murrellp
murrellp 0
My question,think I'll get a honest answer ?

How many of these bitchers are actually REAL Pilots, not sims pilots, or puter putter arounders ?

The several pilots I know don't use computer freebees in their flight planing.
RivetDriver
RivetDriver 0
@murrellp: For starters, I'm both a pilot, and aircraft owner, and an aircraft homebuilder. I can't speak for the individuals posting on this board, but I do know that on other forums where I know there are many pilots the rancor about the FlightPrep is high. I can assure you that "real pilots" use the free services quite extensively in their planning. In fact, one commercial/CFII/ATP pilot I know who regularly flies charity flights in a 400 series twin Cessna swears that virtually _all_ commercial pilots use the FltPlan.com website .. a free service .. for their flight planning. Whether you believe this is an honest answer or not, is for you to decide. But I can assure you it is.
schwin
schwin 0
@Rivetdriver: Good comment, as I said I don't have a full understanding of the complaint. I have read the patent (http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=7640098.PN.&OS=PN/7640098&RS=PN/7640098) and I also read this blog "Myth vs Fact regarding the Flightprep Patent"(http://blog.flightprep.com/2010/12/myth-vs-fact-regarding-flightprep.html). Based on the extensive prior art sited on the patent, it would appear as if the patent office considered a lot of prior art and in turn deemed the Flight Prep invention as "novel and unique" over known prior art. If Flight Prep's patent is not "worthy", then it will be very easy to site other prior art and defeat this. Also, if it's not "worthy" then why would these other guys copy it? Flight Prep is a small, 4 employee business. I think they deserve the right to protect their intellectual property. Unfortunately, due to other people copying the idea, the courts will have to decide if it's valid.
jnavratil
John Navratil 0
Scanning (not perusing) the claims, it appears S&E have patented the process used by google maps or any other over the road "drive planners"; composition of maps from a plurality of sources, overlay of a course line, addition of VOR, waypoints, etc. For a patent to be issued, it must be novel, non-obvious and useful. Non-obvious doesn't mean to be confusing to Old Aunt Milly, but non-obvious to a practioner of the art. I was composing disparate NexRad charts for a product idea in the late 90's (didn't go anywhere) and can tell you this is old hat for GIS programmers. The only thing new in the patent, IMHO, is the claim to do this over the Internet instead from a maps repository over a local network. Whoop-dee-doo!

PS: Also an owner-pilot
jnavratil
John Navratil 0
Another thing I would like to point out about web-server based programming is that the code used to implement the application is secret. It resides on the server which, if properly protected, will not be available for someone else to steal. That "runwayfinder" implemented its own flight planning solution speaks to the obvious nature of the solution.
n6773v
The problem I have is that they are pulling government geo/aviation maps that we as tax payers already pay for. These charts have been available since the early days of digital technology.
I know there is still a group that will be boycotting their booth (and sponsors)at SunFun.
jnavratil
John Navratil 0
This is the letter I have written to my Congressman:

I am a private pilot who makes use of digital navigation charts (AeroNav Products) published by the FAA and provided for download over the Internet. Several web sites have made use of the charts to provide services using the charts; for example locating airport on the charts and providing airport information, but also flight planning.

Last summer, a patent #7,640,098 was issued to StenBock & Everson, a company in Aurora, OR which claims a patent on composing maps from multiple maps and displaying portions of a map or a composition of maps within a browser from over the Internet. It is of some interest to me that this patent makes the display of government maps or composition of such maps the exclusive province of Stenbock and Everson.

My own opinion is that Business Methods patents, particularly software patents, are a impediment to innovation and should be eliminated. I would like for you to investigate the issue of software patents with an eye to their elimination.

However, that is a broader request than I have in mind with the letter. I would like to know how it is possible that the USPTO can grant a process patent, the effect of which is to grant the sole power to provide web-based use of government published charts which are in the public domain to a single company? The product which Stenbock and Everson have protected ("FlightPrep") would have absolutely no value if it were not for the public domain charts they download from the FAA and to which they have restricted web access, by patent.
midlife
Mark Kolber 0
murrelp asked
"How many of these bitchers are actually REAL Pilots, not sims pilots, or puter putter arounders ?
The several pilots I know don't use computer freebees in their flight planing."

Perhaps you don't know many pilots. Visit a pilot forum and see the discussions if you are really curious. Or, head over to an FBO that has a flight planning room that has an internet computer instead of or even in addition to a WSI terminal.

What you would find is that most pilots (agi with the exception of air carriers) use free flight planning services of one type or another. The official source of pilot weather briefings is via telephone or online DUAT services (both free). The tool of choice for a high percentage of corporate pilots and a decent percentage of Part 135 pilots is Fltplan.com.

btw, I'm a pilot an CFI and while I do have a pay-for flight planning program, I use free online services extensively.
mbaraz
Michael Baraz 0
I am doing the research for upgrading my EFB. Let's see... do I support a company who would rather make blood money off lawsuits or compete by product capabilities, quality and support. I guess we have our answer. I pay a lot of money for various flight planning and training tools. FlightPrep and ASA will never ever be a company I pay money to directly or indirectly (I pledge to avoid any site paying them royalties).

I have signed the petition at http://www.BoycottFlightPrep.com, I hope you will too.

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