But... NavMonster.com Returns To Operation!
Continuing News/Analysis by ANN Editor-In-Chief Jim
Aero-News Alert/Update, 01.01.11,
2238 ET: As noted in the breaking news story ANN published
on New Year's Eve, NavMonster.com informed ANN that it had made
some manner of breakthrough in which they believed that they could
resume online flight planning services and as of a few minutes ago,
ANN spoke to NavMonster's Marc Alexander over the weekend when
details were still a little murky and expects to follow up with
additional info shortly. For the moment, though, a much valued
free online flight planning resource is available once
again... and we hope that bodes well for RunwayFinder.com and
other such services. More info to follow...
Aero-News Alert/Update, 12.31.10, 1658 ET: ANN
has just learned that NavMonster.com
will go back online tomorrow, January 1st, 2011... The site has
JUST posted the following message: "You spoke (in volumes!) and
we've listened. We got all the lawyers and programmers together
from both sides, and after some good discussions, an agreement has
been reached. No more patent infringement worries."
More details to follow! HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Original Report: ANN
continues to look into the growing amount of background data
surrounding one of the general aviation world's most recent
controversies. This, while the anti-FlightPrep sentiment continues
unabated and appears to be growing. As of this writing, the
'BoycottFlightprep.com' site has well over 1000 signatures on its
boycott petition and the online forum, net, and twitter
conversations continue to be overwhelmingly
As previously noted, the aero-brouhaha started when legal
personnel representing FlightPrep sued a highly-regarded (and free)
online flight planning site by the name of RunwayFinder. Like many
such sites, RunwayFinder's Dave Parsons noted that his site was
hand-coded and operated with very little financial compensation.
While Parsons shut the site's flight planning functionality down
for fear of running the meter on FlightPrep's astounding assessment
of potential financial damages (estimated to be as much as $3.2
million per month), he decided to fight the patent's claims on his
site and started a Legal Defense Fund in order to raise the
necessary capital to fight the mess.
Since then, NavMonster
had gone dark (see update at top of story!),
SkyVector has decided to pay up and a number of other sites have
either curtailed services or shut down altogether... leaving ANN to
consider that in addition to all the other questions
involved, the FlightPrep battle might result in potential
hazards to those aviators who had taken advantage of familiar
flight planning utilities to stay abreast of data needed for their
flights... Worse; the lack of this data might produce a
dangerous situation in which less or no information is imparted --
which might otherwise keep pilots out of trouble.
A bit of a reach? Maybe...
But with at least two of the most favored flight planning sites
(and their attendant functionality and familiarity to those who
used them) curtailed, there is no question that less flight
planning data was available on demand to those pilots who are
looking for same.
FlightPrep is obviously looking for a serious paycheck for the
efforts expended in achieving their patent approval... even though
this effort has reportedly taken nearly a decade and had been
refused at least seven times before its completion. Software and
patent pundits indicate that the FlightPrep patent is quite
vulnerable but fighting its effects are likely to be costly, simply
because patent law is not cheap. Further; there are a number of
credible reports that seem to show that FlightPrep is looking to
expand the reach of its patent and that other companies working in
the flight planning arena, and not necessarily just those
presenting such functionality online, may soon be vulnerable.
But the quest for hard cash continues unabated at FlightPrep...
with reports that nearly everyone connected with the offering of
any flight planning service was contacted by their attorneys
seeking "confidential" consults in order to arrange for a licensing
agreement. No one seems immune to their quest for patent licensing
moolah... AOPA, FlightAware, Jeppesen, you name it. And through it
all, FlightPrep has apparently considered each and every
protestation an anti-American affront to their alleged genius....
hinting at what appears to be considerable institutional
In a recent email exchange with
one of the persons who received an email from erstwhile
cyber-terrorist 'Dave Merril', FlightPrep boss
Roger Stenbock is alleged to have written that, "I base my
affairs on the principles on which this country was founded -
liberty, free enterprise, fairness, and the rule of law, not on the
collective rage of a mislead mob stirred up on the
Mob or not... the nearly unanimous condemnation of FlightPrep's
business practices (of late) should make any business person pause
and consider. In other words... why is Stenbock/FlightPrep/et
al "right" while thousands of others, many of whom are his
customers no less, "wrong." There is no question that FlightPrep is
losing a LOT of business over the manner in which their practices
are now perceived by the general aviation world... and one wonders
whether the balance between what they might gain through licensing
(if their patent survives what are now certain to be legal
counters) and what they lose through the boycott, might tip to an
overall losing proposition... if it hasn't already.
Another factor in all this... and one that probably is beyond
much of the industry's reach to do anything about, is that current
patent law and regulation appears to be hopelessly broken. Trying
to keep up with the times, patent law has been reformatted and
regurgitated to deal with tough issues such as software design and
other intellectual properties while a number of smart legal
entities have learned to play the system like a violin... to the
benefit of their clientele, but the reported demise of a number of
companies who ran afoul of the 'walks like a duck' test... in that
they bore enough of a resemblance to the patent to make a lawsuit
feasible and the necessary defense nearly unaffordable. As a
result, there is great sentiment in a number of industries that
today's patent laws and regs are anti-innovation and incredibly
difficult to deal with... and ultimately, NOT in the best interests
of this country's progress or future prosperity.
And Finally... Our
Despite the threats to ANN and the fact that
FlightPrep would like us to shut up and say what they want us to
say, we do recognize the legal validity of their patent... strictly
as a matter of law. We do not believe, however, that the FlightPrep
patent will survive a competent legal offensive... and we hope that
RunwayFinder prevails. Also; in terms of 'aero-citizenship' we
think that FlightPrep has pulled off one of the dumbest moves we've
seen since Wrong Way Corrigan went... well, the wrong way.
They could have done this in a wholly different way... but instead
they played bully, acted sneakily and then tried to limit all
the negativity associated by removing negative comments from their
own sites as well as promoting a few aero-blogs
who defended their greed. FlightPrep's behavior has been at
best, boorish, and at worst, dangerous. There comes a time when one
has to look at one's self and ask what you want -- to be the
biggest pariah in GA since two FAA idiots tried to ground Bob
Hoover -- or to sheepishly admit that you screwed the pooch
and that it's high time to try and rejoin with those who are
trying to make general aviation great once again -- while
giving up their delusions of patent grandeur -- once and for
all. Barring that, I do not see FlightPrep as a going concern by
this time in 2011... nor should they be.
The company's actions have been foolish, selfish -- and possibly
far worse. But more important and above all else, it is not a
company that seems to have the best interests of aviation at
heart... and if that's the case... the
hell with them.
If you will allow me a Bible reference... the King James Version
of the Bible, Galatians 6: 7-9 notes that, "...for whatsoever a
man soweth, that shall he also reap."
We couldn't have said it better. More info to follow...