Sunday, May 8, 2011

When patents shut down the little guy

The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote with this example of a small business getting shut down over "software" patents.

Patent 7,640,098 describes a process for generating flight plans on the Internet. People have been generating flight plans for as long as we've regulated flight, but tacking "on the Internet" on the end of that process turns it into a patentable "software" method.

As the EFF describes, RunwayFinder (2005) allowed users to check out runway layouts and gather other information about airports, such as current weather, to help them make flight plans. The site's developer ran RunwayFinder out of his home and relied on ad revenue and PayPal donations to run the site. A lawsuit by FlightPrep, owner of 7,640,098, caused RunwayFinder to shut down.

This story has a happy ending, at least. RunwayFinder's web site is back up, with this message:

"RunwayFinder is back on the air! Thanks to your overwhelming support and some great communication sat down with FlightPrep and FlightPrep agreed to dismiss the lawsuit! The exact details of the settlement license are convidential. RunwayFinder doees not ask for or support any further boycott of FlightPrep, its services, products, or owners. This is a big win for RunwayFinder and the pilots who depend on its services! We're back and lawsuit free, come check out www.runwayfidner.com. Again, thanks you for all of your support."