FlightPrep, an Oregon company that received a patent for online flight planning, has apparently started charging royalty fees to other services doing the same thing and the result may be that some of the most popular services will shut down rather than pay the fees or try to fight them. At least one online chart and planning service, SkyVectors, has decided to eat the unspecified costs and continue business as usual, with a note on its charts referencing a licensing agreement with FlightPrep. Other providers are reportedly in the process of being contacted by FlightPrep. The patent appears to cover the basic functions of every online flight planner we’ve come across and FlightPrep’s apparent willingness to enforce it raises inevitable questions about their future availability and cost. After-hours calls and e-mails to FlightPrep were not immediately returned but we hope to talk to them today.
When the patent was announced last January, FlightPrep declined to directly discuss whether it planned to enforce the patent and how. It began the patent process in 2001 and received the paperwork Dec. 29, 2009. Company President John Bouyea told AVweb at the time that it was mulling its options. “FlightPrep has not evaluated those issues at this time,” Bouyea told AVweb. “The patent may be interesting reading for other providers and the aviation industry as a whole.” FlightPrep has an online flight planner and charges a yearly subscription fee of $149.95.
What, if any, effect will this have on the flight planning from FlightAware?