War over robot garage

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 
War over robot garage

HOBOKEN — The battle between the Hoboken Parking Utility and the operators of the Garden Street automated garage broke out into full-fledged war last night — and city taxpayers could be left picking up a multi-million dollar tab.

Escorted by several Hoboken police officers, Parking Utility Director John Corea entered the garage, at 916 Garden St., just after 10 p.m. and ordered an employee to leave the premises, according Dennis Clarke, general manager of Robotics Parking Inc., the Clearwater, Fla-based company that has operated the first-in-the-nation robot garage since it opened in 2002.

Yesterday morning, a parking utility employee stationed outside the garage said that a new company — Israel-based Unitronics — has agreed to run the equipment in the garage.

Several employees of Unitronics filed in and out of the offices yesterday morning as a police officer stationed inside the vestibule looked on.

The city owns the property and equipment at the 314-space garage — but not the software used to operate the intricate system of elevators, pallets and pulleys.

Clarke said yesterday that the company plans to file an injuction in federal court seeking both civil and criminal penalties for allowing the city to bring another company in to copy trade secrets.

“This is a criminal act,” he said. “They may be sending what they are copying out of the country to people elsewhere to be reverse engineered so they have the ability to run it without having to pay software fees. If they get away with this, then (Bill) Gates is at risk.”

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