PORTLAND — The City of Portland thinks something stinks about the public bathrooms being marketed by a Southern Oregon company.
The Sidewalk Restroom sold by Romtec Inc. of Roseburg looks similar to the Portland Loo, the city’s distinctive street-side restrooms. Too similar, the city alleges in a lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court.
Portland says 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.
“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.
It all started in January, when someone from the City of 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. It has sold three Loos to Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska, along with the cities of Victoria and Nanaimo in British Columbia. Its lawsuit says the city is negotiating to sell Loos to San Diego, Seattle and Esquimalt, B.C.
The city is asking a judge to prohibit Romtec from marketing or selling its Sidewalk Restroom and to order the destruction of 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. A company official did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.