Bloomberg News

Airbus Challenges Patent on Fuel-Saving Winglets Used by Boeing

December 01, 2011

Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Airbus SAS, the largest aircraft maker, sued a partner of Boeing Co. to avoid paying patent royalties for wing tips that make airplanes more fuel-efficient.

The lawsuit filed today in Austin, Texas, asks the federal court to declare that the Aviation Partners Inc. patent is invalid and that Airbus doesn’t infringe. Closely held Aviation Partners, which has a joint venture with Boeing to make winglets that reduce drag on an airplane, has “stated repeatedly” that Airbus must pay royalties, according to the complaint.

Airbus is adding “Sharklets” to some of its newer planes to reduce fuel burned by 3.5 percent. The Toulouse, France-based company said yesterday that a new A320 narrowbody airplane model with the Sharklet devices completed its first flight. Aviation Partners owns a patent issued in 1994 for a “blended winglet,” and Chicago-based Boeing formed a venture with the company in 1999 to expand use of the devices on Boeing jets.

“API’s threats are a significant hindrance to Airbus and, without an early resolution, place Airbus at a competitive disadvantage,” Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., said in the complaint.

A representative for Boeing, which wasn’t named in the lawsuit, couldn’t immediately be reached to comment. An unidentified person who answered the phone at the Seattle office of Aviation Partners said the company had no comment.

The case is Airbus SAS v. Aviation Parnters Inc., 11cv1030, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas (Austin).

--With assistance from Andrea Rothman in Dubai, Rachel Layne in Boston, and Susanna Ray in Seattle. Editor: Romaine Bostick

To contact the reporters on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Shepard at mshepard7@bloomberg.net


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