The battle to keep airplane fuel costs low is now extending to the fight over where a patent lawsuit should be heard. In Airbus v. Aviation Partners, Airbus wants the rights to market a curved wingtip attachment that makes an airplane more fuel efficient. Aviation Partners says it has been using blended winglets on an estimated 3,500 Boeing jetliners that have enabled planes to fly further due to the technology decreasing fuel use by five to seven percent. Airbus calls its technology a “Sharklet” and purports its design cuts fuel consumption by 3.5 percent on single-aisle jets.
The dispute stems from the fact that Airbus had been discussing the designs with Aviation Partners for five years, reports the Wall Street Journal. They even had a memorandum of understanding to create a joint venture. But all the while Airbus was creating its own model to “keep its options open.” When Airbus showed Aviation Partners the Sharklet sketches, the company claimed it was similar to their blended winglets and demanded royalties.
Airbus then filed a federal lawsuit against Aviation Partners seeking to invalidate the winglets patent and avoid royalty payments. The two parties are now warring over which court should hear the case. Airbus filed suit in Austin, Texas’ U.S. District Court. Aviation Partners wants the case moved to Seattle where it is based.
Aviation Partners asserts this business litigation and patent case is a classic example of a big company trying to exert its influence over the underdog. Aviation Partners has 13 employees and yearly revenue of just under $500 million. Airbus and its parent company bring in $60.4 billion. Airbus feels differently and says that the winglet patent royalty demands are “…a significant hindrance” that makes them have a “…complete disadvantage.”
The lawsuit comes down to wanting a bigger share of the global aircraft market. For example, Southwest Airlines has blended winglets on at least 80 percent or more of their Boeing 737s. Currently, 100 other airlines use them too.
Patent disputes such as this one merit an aggressive business litigation attorney to resolve the matter in the most expeditious, cost effective way. These issues can impact a business’ bottom line and battles over coveted intellectual property assets merit a skilled litigator to uphold a business’ rights. The stakes are high, so retaining a patent attorney that is skilled in the technical details and is a respected opponent in the courtroom is key.