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It’s the little aviation company that could. Sandel Avionics Inc. has already fended off two patent infringement suits by Honeywell Inc. that would have shut down the 20-person company. But the battle isn’t over. Honeywell is appealing the district court’s finding that Sandel’s system to warn pilots of imminent surface collisions does not infringe Honeywell’s patents. “Probably one of the main reasons Honeywell brought the case is that they didn’t want competition,” said Sandel’s attorney, Howard Pollack, a partner at Fish & Richardson’s Redwood City, Calif., office. But a company shouldn’t be able to “use a patent to monopolize a marketplace that was the subject of a government mandate.” Congress passed a law six years ago requiring passenger airplanes to have an onboard system to warn pilots when they are about to crash into land, water or some other object. Honeywell sued its four competitors that market these terrain awareness and warning systems for infringement. Sandel and its co-defendant, Universal Avionics Systems Corp., are the only ones that have not settled. Honeywell’s attorney Steven McCormick, a partner at Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis, could not be reached for comment. In November, a Delaware district court judge granted summary judgment, finding that Sandel and Universal did not infringe five Honeywell patents. Honeywell contends in its appeal that the court misinterpreted several claim terms in the patent. Pollack said he expects the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to hear arguments in the fall. In a separate suit involving a related patent, a Delaware jury in December issued a verdict of noninfringement for Sandel while finding that Universal did infringe. Pollack said Sandel’s expert witness at trial, a former astronaut and a captain for Southwest Airlines, helped them win that case.

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