July 24, 2014
By Elizabeth A Tennyson
A U.S. District Court judge in Oregon has dismissed a patent infringement lawsuit against AOPA. The lawsuit, brought by SD Holdings, was dismissed July 22 for lack of personal jurisdiction.
In its $66 million lawsuit, SD Holdings claimed that FlyQ Web, a free-to-members flight planning tool, infringed on two patents held by the company. But Judge Marco Hernández dismissed the case on the grounds that it should never have been filed in Oregon. His action confirmed an earlier recommendation by District Court Magistrate John V. Acosta. AOPA had previously requested that the case be dismissed or moved to Maryland, where AOPA headquarters is located. AOPA had also argued that SD Holdings had no good faith basis for bringing the patent infringement case.
“It’s unfortunate that AOPA has been forced to spend an entire year and significant resources defending itself against meritless claims in a lawsuit that should never have been filed,” said Ken Mead, AOPA’s general counsel. “We hope this will be an end to the issue, but AOPA has not violated any patents and we are prepared to vigorously fight any future claims SD Holdings might bring.”
Because the case was dismissed without prejudice, SD Holdings can refile its lawsuit in another jurisdiction. But Judge Hernández also deferred AOPA’s motion for sanctions, saying it could be considered by any court that ultimately hears the case, if the case is refiled in another jurisdiction. Even if SD Holdings does not file the lawsuit again, an Oregon court could consider the motion for sanctions, creating a possibility that SD Holdings could be required to reimburse AOPA for all legal fees and costs.
The lawsuit against AOPA was not the first time SD Holdings had pursued patent infringement claims against an aviation organization. Previous efforts by Flight Prep, the only member of SD Holdings listed in its incorporation documents, targeted Jeppesen, NavMonster, and RunwayFinder.com. NavMonster and RunwayFinder.com have since shut down.
Director of Government Affairs and Executive Communications Elizabeth Tennyson joined AOPA in 1998, the same year she earned her private pilot certificate. She also holds an instrument rating and enjoys jumping out of planes almost as much as flying them.
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