Friday, August 23, 2013

Portland sues for infringement of functional public bathroom design

Story here.  It's actually worse than the reporting, which already makes clear that the "distinctive" elements of the design are functional--designed to deter graffiti, allow police monitoring, etc.

Here is a description from the complaint:
Measuring 10’7” long x 6’ wide x 8’6” tall, the Portland Loo is large enough to be handicap accessible and can accommodate a stroller or bike for the occupant. The Portland Loo is constructed with heavy gauge stainless steel wallpanels and is finished with an anti-graffiti powder coating. There is a simple button-activated hand washing station mounted on the exterior to promote shorter use times and to serve the general pedestrian population. Distinctively stripped of much of its plumbing, the Portland Loo can be delivered on site as a complete enclosure. Artwork on the door panel links the Portland Loo to its surroundings and conveys a sense of community ownership. Perhaps the Portland Loo’s most distinctive feature is its louvered slats. Louvers at the top and bottom are specifically angled and dimensioned to facilitate daylighting, ventilation, and natural surveillance by passers by. The design of the Portland Loo has been cited as ingenious in terms of CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design). The louvers extend from foot level to knee level and again just above head level, making activity inside somewhat visible to passersby. It is this feature that has largely garnered praise as improving the safety and cleanliness of public restrooms.
Here are the allegations of what was copied allegedly constituting copyright infringement: "(a) the placement, size, position, and dimensions of its louvers; (b) the choice of metal wall panels; (c) use of an anti-graffiti powder coating; (d) the stripped down plumbing that facilitates its set-in-place installation; (e) placement of the sink on the exterior of the unit; and (f) dedicated space for art and advertising." That this is an architectural work doesn't change the difference between copyright and patent.

This should be taught as an example of "pleading oneself out of court."  Portland has included a claim for federal trademark dilution (and infringement).  (And alleges that the design is inherently distinctive, contra Wal-Mart.) If I were defendants, I'd ask for fees. 

1 comment:

Bruce Boyden said...

Sounds like the first step will be to draft and serve a Rule 11 motion.