GARAGE STANDOFF Hoboken says firm 'hijacked' software

Hoboken says firm 'hijacked' software

Saturday, July 29, 2006
Jersey Journal

HOBOKEN - City officials plan to ask a federal judge on Monday to order an injunction against the former operators of the Garden Street automated garage, claiming the Florida-based company hijacked the system and trapped several hundred cars in the facility at rush hour yesterday morning.

The computer system that operates the first-in-the-nation garage came to a grinding halt early yesterday morning. As of last evening, the 314-space garage was back at work, but only on a sporadic basis, officials said.

Representatives of Enterprise early afternoon scrambled to put customers in rental cars courtesy of the city while others mulled alternate plans.

"Today is my day off and I was supposed to go surfing at Sandy Hook," said Bruce Lamonte, 45, who was dressed in shorts and flip flops while waiting to hear about his car yesterday afternoon. "I'm hoping that my car will come out soon so I can salvage part of the day, either that or clean the house."

Robotics Parking, Inc., the company that has operated the 916 Garden St. garage since it opened in 2002, was abruptly removed from the facility Tuesday night, days before its contract was to expire.

The city owns the garage but not the software that is used to operate the intricate system of elevators, pallets and pulleys.

On Wednesday, Robotics asked Superior Court Judge Stanley Chesley to order an injunction against the city for allowing a rival company, Israel-based Unitronics, to operate unlicensed software.

Chesley ruled that the city could continue to use the software until the contract expires on Aug. 1, but that Robotics could not be barred from the premises to ensure that the company's software was not being copied.

City Corporation Counsel Joseph Sherman said he believes Robotics found a way to tamper with the system.

"Even though they are not supposed to be interfering, they've found a way to do that," he said.

Patrick Ricciardi, the city's information technology officer, who took over at the garage after Robotics left, said codes used to operate several dozen components were inexplicably changed overnight.

Workers then had to manually reassign numbers to each module because Robotics did not leave a manual behind.

"This is usually done through the computer, but since we don't have a manual, we can't do it that way," Ricciardi said.

Dennis Clarke, general manager of Robotics, said the city has no right to an operating manual.

"If you own the copyright, you have a right to use it," Clarke said. "They are not entitled to our source codes. This is very critical proprietary information covered under contract law and intellectual properties."

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