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Seattle-based Aviation Partners Seeks Dismissal Of Airbus Lawsuit

Here’s the text of an email I received today … don’t know if it’s true or not, but it sure is interesting, yes?


Two Locked In A Legal Struggle Over Blended Winglet Design

When Joe Clark and his business associates founded Aviation Partners, Inc. (API)  in 1991, he had no idea that he’d be locked in a legal battle with European government-backed aviation giant Airbus.

Now Aviation Partners has filed a response to the pre-emptive lawsuit Airbus recently filed that seeks to invalidate Aviation Partners’ patent (number 5,348,253). This patent was issued in 1994 on the innovative Blended Winglet technology that is the foundation of the small Seattle-based business. API Blended Winglets are in service on more than 5,000 aircraft around the world and, because of their improved aerodynamic efficiency, have saved more than 3 billion gallons of jet fuel, according to the company.

Aviation Partners began discussions with Airbus in 2006 regarding the use of its blended winglets on Airbus A320 series aircraft. Through a series of negotiations, the parties entered into a memorandum of understanding in July 2011. The intent of this agreement was to form a joint venture to use Aviation Partners’ blended winglets on Airbus A320 aircraft.

In the meantime, Airbus, without notifying Aviation Partners, sought a patent in Europe for its own “Sharklet” wing-tip.

According to the court documents filed by API, the company tested its blended winglet design on an Airbus aircraft in 2009, but the two parties could not agree if the modification achieved the required benchmarks required by Airbus to move forward. To address that disagreement, about a year later, API at its own expense performed additional flight tests using a JetBlue A320 aircraft. API says in its filing that the test flights took place near San Bernardino, California. The flight tests were conducted in good weather conditions, over water. Pilots, and others very familiar with the Airbus A320 performance parameters, from both JetBlue and API conducted those flight tests. Id. API achieved drag reduction far in excess of the minimum benchmark during those tests – and far in excess of the recently announced efficiencies of the “Sharklet.”

Upon completion of the flight test, Airbus acknowledged that the API blended winglets performed at a superior level.

Later in the summer of 2011, Airbus “provided API with data and information (including engineering specifications and drawings) for Airbus’s ‘Sharklet design,'” Joe Clark indicated in a sworn declaration accompanying API’s response. “API’s engineers analyzed the Airbus materials and noticed the striking similarity between API’s Blended Winglet… and the Airbus ‘Sharklet’ design.”

In its response, Aviation Partners has requested that the Airbus lawsuit be dismissed or transferred to Seattle, Washington. In its filing, API asks that “if the Court does not dismiss Airbus’s insufficient complaint, API requests that, for the convenience of the parties and in the interests of justice, the Court transfer this matter to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. The dispute has no connection to the Western District of Texas. Neither Airbus nor API has facilities in the Western District of Texas, no relevant evidence is located in the Western District of Texas, and no potential witnesses reside in the Western District of Texas. When it filed its Complaint, Airbus knew that the Western District of Washington was the most convenient forum. It also knew that the majority of witnesses residing in the United States were located in the Western District of Washington.” In seeking the dismissal, API says that Airbus’ complaint is not supported by facts, and does not acknowledge the years-long relationship between the two companies

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