A contentious battle over the Master Instructor Program has entered the courtroom.
After their ouster last year from the board of the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI), Sandy and JoAnn Hill joined with other CFIs to create Master Instructors LLC. The Hills say they filed suit Sept. 21 against NAFI for copyright infringement and unfair competition, alleging that NAFI, which is an affiliate of the Experimental Aircraft Association, did not have authorization to use the intellectual property associated with the Master Instructor program.
Joining in them in the suit is Master Instructor and spin training expert Rich Stowell, who created the Aerobatic Instructor Designation Program, a derivative work of the Hills’ program that includes a Master Instructor-Aerobatic module.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Adam Thurston, a founding partner of the Los Angeles law firm of Eisenberg Raizman Thurston & Wong, stated, “It is unfortunate that NAFI has forced the Hills to resort to the courts to protect their intellectual property rights from infringement. The lawsuit seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, as well as damages arising from NAFI’s copying and unauthorized use of the Master Instructor and Aerobatic Instructor program materials authored by the Hills and Mr. Stowell, as well as the trademarks associated with these programs.”
According to Thurston, NAFI’s royalty-free, non-exclusive license to provide the Master Instructor Program to its members was terminated earlier this year.
A statement released by Sandy and JoAnn Hill said: “It became abundantly clear to us in January that NAFI leadership had no intention of acting in the best interests of its membership and the Master Instructor Program. Consequently, we decided to sever our ties with that organization and thus enhance our autonomy and independence to ensure the continued development and integrity of the program.”
NAFI officials have not been served with any papers relating to the lawsuit, according to Jason Blair, executive director, adding he could not comment at this time on any of the allegations in the Hills’ statement.