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Fri, May 18, 2012

Updated: FlightPrep Bails On Jepp Suit -- Claims 'Settlement' -- But Jepp Denies

FlightPrep Quietly Sues... And Then Reportedly Withdraws From Suit

As we noted last week, it was yet another case of “Oh-No-They-Didn’t” for the folks at FlightPrep... who stirred up VERY negative feelings in late 2010 and early 2011 with patent claims that had the potential to shut down much of the online flight-planning industry if those aggressive claims had been proved out in court.

Via a series of legal threats and what many claimed to be ‘veiled’ intimidation tactics, FlightPrep had much of the industry on their toes until very negative public outcry pretty much forced FlightPrep to dial back their legal offenses and fold their tent... or so it seemed.

But as quiet as things may have seemed, there was actually far more going on than we heard... and more we looked into it, the stranger it got.

Late last week, ANN received copies of a lawsuit that FlightPrep filed against Jeppesen-Sanderson... a Boeing subsidiary, back in late 2011. Obviously kept quiet while the initial legal battle was fought, we eventually  learned, via a note from Jepp’s Michael Pound, that FlightPrep had withdrawn its suit and the court has allowed them to do so. According to Pound, “We understood that (FlightPrep’s) Stenbock (STEN-bock) and Everson had a patent... but it was our position that our products did not infringe upon it.”

That should have been the end of it... but if you recall some of the stranger aspects of this tale, you have to know that it could and did get weirder.

ANN attempted to get more input from FlightPrep for a few days, but our calls and emails were not returned. On a whim, we called FlightPrep's legal counsel directly, Peter Haas, and engaged in a short but confusing conversation. Haas admitted that the suit was no more but corrected us when we reported that the suit had been dropped by telling us (and reconfirming the details) that, "Both parties have reached a settlement on that matter." When we reiterated that we had heard that there was little action on the matter and that there was no report of a settlement, just FlightPrep's withdrawal, Mr. Haas confirmed the previous statement... and the call ended.

Perplexed, we called Jepp's Mike Pound once again seeking a clarification -- with Pound responding to Haas's settlement statement by carefully noting that, "I don't believe that to be case." He promised to check with their legal office to be sure of the particulars -- with a promised follow-up call, shortly. Unlike FlightPrep, Pound was promptly back on the line with the following additional detail(s), "We did not settle that case... there was a meeting... we met with them to prove that there was no infringement and they then moved to dismiss the case. That's it."

O.... K.... that was about as definitive as it gets... and once again, FlightPrep's actions, behaviors and explanations continued to redefine the word, "strange."

FlightPrep’s efforts earned them a very bad reception over the last year and a half and did some demonstrable damage to a number of companies that feared further legal attacks. The flight planning industry can only hope that FlightPrep has decided, once and for all, that these tactics will not earn them the rewards that they once pursued and that some peace can be restored to this aspect of aviation.

We shall see...

FMI: www.jeppesen.com

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