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Originally published Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 10:05 PM

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Portland raises stink about toilet ‘knockoff’

The city of Portland, developer of the Portland Loo public bathroom, raises a stink over an Oregon company’s rival product. Also, Seattle Bubble blogger Tim Ellis leaves online brokerage Redfin.

Seattle Times business staff

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Sorry, but I am missing the copyright infringement here. They are not using the... MORE
people in Portland are bitching about something? how is this different from any other... MORE
Who gives a craperloo. This shall also pass. MORE

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Call it a loo suit.

The city of Portland thinks the public bathrooms being marketed by a Southern Oregon company look too similar to the distinctive street-side restrooms developed and now marketed to others by the Rose City, The Associated Press reports.

In a lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court in Portland, the city alleges Roseburg-based Romtec infringed on the city’s copyright and is interfering with its efforts to sell the Loo to other cities.

The steel-walled restrooms feature open slats at the top and bottom to let police see how many people are inside, an anti-graffiti coating to deter vandalism and a hand-washing station on the outside to promote shorter use, AP reported.

“After the success of the Portland Loo, Romtec now seeks to usurp the urban market with its Sidewalk Restroom, which is an obvious knock-off of the Portland Loo,” the city says in its lawsuit.

The Portland Loo was designed in 2007 by a city commissioner, who then assigned the copyright to the city, Bloomberg News reports. The city’s suit also makes claims under U.S. trademark law.

The Portland Loo has become such a distinctive and popular creation of the city that it even has its own Facebook page. The lawsuit notes that a Portland Loo purchased by the city of Victoria was designated “The Best Public Restroom in Canada” by Cintas, the cleaning- and business-services company.

Portland itself has seven Portland Loos installed around the city and has sold them to three other municipalities, according to the complaint. It is negotiating to sell more to the cites of San Diego, Esquimalt, B.C. and Seattle, where a Pioneer Square developer would pay for it and a neighborhood group would fund maintenance.

The infringement stink started in January, when someone from Cincinnati notified Portland that Romtec was offering its Sidewalk Restrooms “for a cost significantly less than the cost of the Portland Loo,” according to the city’s lawsuit. The local press in Cincinnati had widely covered that city’s discussions with Portland over the Loo.

Portland charges $90,000 for each Loo and hopes to use profits to pay the maintenance costs for the city’s six Loos.

The city is asking a judge to prohibit Romtec from marketing or selling its Sidewalk Restroom and to order the destruction of the any restrooms or marketing materials the company has on hand. It also seeks profits derived from the sale of Romtec’s restrooms and attorneys’ fees.

Romtec sells public, outdoor restrooms to clients including the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management, according to its website.

The company did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News.

— Times wire services

Blogger leaves Redfin

Tim Ellis, who started blogging at SeattleBubble.com years before the housing bubble burst, recently left the online real-estate brokerage Redfin to join Porch, a Seattle Web startup that offers free, personalized referrals to vetted builders and other home-improvement vendors.

Ellis says the move, to some degree, reflects where he is now in his life. He joined Redfin in 2010 and wrote reports about home-sales trends. He also had a personal interest: He’d been hunting for a house since 2005.

After “the world’s longest house search,” Ellis says, he bought a 1920s-era home in Everett in 2011. While the house is not a fixer-upper, it’s got lots of room for home-improvement projects. High on his list: finishing the basement.

Porch plans to launch its site next month, says Ellis, who plans to keep blogging at Seattlebubble.com. As a “data journalist” at Porch, Ellis says he will analyze data for trends, write stories and help inform the site’s design.

“As soon as our features are ready, I will be one of the first users,” he says.

Sanjay Bhatt: sbhatt@seattletimes.com or 206-464-3103

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