Firm says Brentwood has no ownership in GPS system used in city vehicles, with update

Brentwood Mayor Chris Thornton invented a part of a GPS tracking system used by the city’s vehicles, which the city and staff can claim no ownership to, attorneys at a intellectual property firm determined and reported on in a board of alderman meeting in September.

The city received an award in April from the Missouri Municipal League for the system, called Geocompile. According to the Municipal League at the time, Brentwood partnered with Geocompile, LLC, to develop the data collection and analysis system to analyze the data from the GPS units.

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After the award was announced the city denied it had a relationship with Geocompile LLC. Later, in a city meeting, city officials voted to turn down the recognition. Aldermen at the meeting questioned if the city had any ownership in the software, because of Thornton’s involvement.

The city hired Harness, Dickey & Pierce to look into it, and attorneys from the firm reported the findings at the Sept. 17 Brentwood Board of Aldermen meeting.

Attorney, Joseph Walsh, said that they analyzed meeting agendas, minutes, notes, reports, spread sheets, purchase orders, as well as documents from the Missouri Secretary of State website, the Municipal League, and online publications.

They interviewed Mayor Chris Thornton, City Administrator Bola Akande, the fire and police chiefs, and others, including  city attorney, Kevin O’Keefe.

Walsh said they looked at three elements: a GPS software server owned and managed by US Fleet, which the city was licensed to use; data acquired by GPS services obtained by US Fleet and installed in city vehicles; and software created by Thornton that organized the data taken from a spreadsheet.

He said in late 2017 some additional software was developed by a third party, retained by Thornton. Walsh said during the interview Thornton didn’t tell the firm who the third party was. Walsh said it probably isn’t that important who the third party was.

Walsh said there’s no evidence that the city collaborated with the third party, paid the third party any money, or provided any other form of compensation.

He said Thornton was the inventor, and that’s key. It’s about who comes up with an idea; not about who refines an invention, he said.

“Our findings show that that was Thornton and this third party software developer that he retained. So from a patent point of view, it would seen that Mr. Thornton would be the inventor and owner of any patent rights that might exists in Geocompile system,” Walsh said.

A Sunshine request will be filed with the city of Brentwood to determine how much the city paid Harness, Dickey & Pierce for the work. Update: The city responded to the request for the information saying it hasn’t yet been billed. Attorney, Joseph Walsh said the city should be billed for the work around the end of October.


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