Jury: No infringement of TAWS patent

 - December 30, 2008, 4:16 AM

A federal jury last month rejected a claim by Honeywell that Sandel Avionics of Vista, Calif., violated its patents, ending more than six years of legal battles over terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) technology.

The jury of five women and three men at the Delaware Federal Court in Wilmington deliberated for about five hours before deciding on December 5 that Sandel did not infringe on two Honeywell patents related to the latter’s enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS). A federal judge in 2003 had ruled that none of Honeywell’s patents was infringed, but an appeals court reversed that decision last year and ordered a new trial on one remaining claim related to the two patents.

“The judge in the original trial got it 100 percent right, and this jury got it right as well,” said Sandel president Gerry Block. “We couldn’t be happier with the result.” Block declined to reveal how much money Sandel spent fighting the lawsuit, originally filed by Honeywell against several makers of TAWS in May 2002, but said the jury’s verdict “vindicates” his company and allows it to sell its TAWS products without having to pay Honeywell licensing fees.

Some other TAWS makers named in Honeywell’s original EGPWS lawsuit struck deals to do just that.

Honeywell said in a statement it was “disappointed in the decision and believes the jury erred in its findings. Honeywell invested tens of millions of dollars in the development of the industry’s first enhanced ground proximity warning system. The company believes that a legal course of action was required to protect this investment that has potentially saved thousands of lives.”

Honeywell also had been forcefully pursuing a lawsuit against Universal Avionics for EGPWS patent infringement, but the two companies settled their dispute for undisclosed terms before the start of last month’s trial. Universal was forced to pay Honeywell around $6.5 million as part of an earlier TAWS patent infringement case. Other TAWS manufacturers include ACSS, Chelton Flight Systems, Garmin and L-3 Avionics Systems. The FAA mandates the equipage of TAWS avionics in most U.S.-registered turbine-powered airplanes.