In a move that could be good news for any aircraft owner faced with complying with an FAA airworthiness directive (AD), the U.S. Patent Office has agreed to review a patent it issued for a kit to make an FAA-required fix. AOPA requested the review, claiming the patent in effect requires aircraft owners to use the patent holder's product, even though there is a virtually identical, FAA-approved fix available from another manufacturer.
"You cannot patent safety," said AOPA President Boyer, "especially after the fact. We believe this patent review is a major step forward not only for Lake pilots, but for all aircraft owners. They should be free to purchase and install any FAA-mandated or -approved safety fix."
At issue in this case is an AD for cracks in the wingspar cap of several Lake amphibian aircraft models. Revo, Inc., manufacturer of Lake amphibian aircraft, retroactively patented a wing spar doubler kit after another manufacturer, Air Tech Canada, began marketing a lower cost FAA-approved fix for the same problem. Revo sold the patent to Enpat, a patent infringement firm, which is now suing Lake owners who installed the Air Tech Canada fix.
AOPA filed its official request for reexamination of the patent in July.