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On-line Flight Planning Shake-Up


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Things may be a changin'.......

FlightPrep, an Oregon company that holds a patent covering on-line flight planning, is hitting up EVERY company that offers on-line flight planning. Either they pay up, discontinue service, or get sued. Already, some websites are shuttingdown. One of my favorites, RunwayFinder.com, already announced they were closing, but are trying to work out something at the last minute.

Many of these flight-planning sites operate for FREE, with advertising as their only (meager) income. Having to pay a royalty to FlightPrep will put them out of business.

AVWeb News article




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The situation is getting worse... Runwayfinder.com is now down, and many organizations that provide any form on online flight planning (including AOPA & EAA) are being sized-up to share their income with FlightPrep. Read the blog at Runwayfinder to see how this thing is playing out. It just doesn't seem right... being able to "patent" something as generic as "on-line flight planning". Geez I should have patented: on-line banking, on-line bill paying, on-line contests, on-line dating, on-line shopping.... you see what I mean.


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I've been in the software business my entire professional career and when I started back in the early 80's patents for software were just about impossible. It took Xerox PARC almost 10 years to fight through and get a patent on GUI (yes, it was Xerox not Apple that invented what we take for granted. Long story -- Apple bought the rights to copy parts of the Xerox Alto project for pre-IPO shares in Apple). Somewhere in the early 90's, the floodgates opened up. My personal opinion is the patent office doesn't have sufficient qualified experts in the software arena, nor has the capacity to keep up so way too many patents are issued. I believe very few software patents meet the requirement of new, non-obvious and useful but that's just me.


Don't see how in 2001 that online flight planning wasn't obvious. But the US Patent Office disagrees and it would take a monumental stack of cash to have the patent rescinded.


Hey, the light bulb seems obvious today but wasn't 125+ years ago :)


All that being said, FlightPrep does have a legal patent and has the right to enforce against intentional and unintentional infringement. Not so sure they're going about it right, though.


Good news is that my ForeFlight software for the iPad is unaffected ;)

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