Even Toilets Have Copyrights

The city of Portland is suing the company Romtec, Inc. for creating a sidewalk toilet that is “strikingly similar” to a toilet that Portland created, the Portland Loo.  Portland is suing on the grounds of copyright infringement because Romtec‘s toilets have many of the same design elements as the Loo causing the two to look very similar.  Romtec’s toilet has been described as looking like a knockoff of the Loo.  Also, the price of Romtec’s toilet is only $38,500 instead of the $90,000 that the Portland Loo costs.  Portland created the Loo in part to sell to other cities for a profit but Romtec’s toilet is causing problems for Portland, mainly that other cities will choose their toilet over the similar Loo because it is less than half the price.

Portland wants Romtec to stop producing these toilets and hand over the profits they have made from their toilets.  This case is situated around the potential money that this toilet can bring in.  Honestly, Portland seems to be trying to get as much money as it can out of the Loo.  They are suing Romtec because its toilet looks similar to theirs; not because they copied it detail for detail.  Portland copyrighted the Loo in 2008 but did not patent it.  Since Romtec created a knockoff toilet, and not a counterfeit Loo, I feel that Portland should not be able to sue the company because they did not patent the Loo.

This article shows how Romtec is still, according to Kant, in a state of nonage. “Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large part of mankind gladly remain minors all their lives, long after nature has freed them from external guidance.”  Instead of creating a toilet from the ground up, Romtec seems to have copied the Loo’s design instead and changed it slightly (Kant).  Romtec was lazy in its design of the toilet and looked to Portland for external guidance on its design, and possibly the idea.

Milton seems to agree with Kant on how creating a knockoff product hurts us intellectually: “that it will be primely to the discouragement of all learning, and the stop
of Truth, not only by disexercising and blunting our abilities in what we know already,
but by hindring and cropping the discovery that might bee yet further made both in
religious and civill Wisdome.”  Based on this quote, Romtec is discouraging learning because instead of creating something new, it is making something we already have without improving its functionality (Milton).  Lessig states that “This blindness will harm the environment of innovation” which combines the ideas put forth by Kant and Milton.  Overall, by Romtec creating a similar toilet to the Loo, the company showed its laziness in creating the toilet’s design.


McDonough, Molly. “Portland raises stink over its public potty design, sues for infringement.” ABA Journal. (Aug. 27 2013). Web. 4 Sep. 2013.






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