Innovative technology start-up leverages IP protection to fuel its venture
We recently spoke with Mike Papineau of Sarasota, Florida, CEO of RideFlag Technologies, Inc. RideFlag is a vehicle occupancy validation app that permits government agencies to validate vehicle occupancy using highly innovative patented optic biometric technology. The tool encourages carpooling and legitimate use of HOV lanes. RideFlag’s technology helps reduce traffic congestion and, as a result, reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Thank you, Mike. What was your process in creating the RideFlag® trademark and name?
The trademark RideFlag®, as we know it today, came to be after mapping keywords that relate to our technology.
Then, we found terms that are unique and easy to remember and looked for available Top-Level Domains (TLD’s), which was one of the first hurdles to overcome. Using algorithms to find matches between two-word availability – because one-word domains are not available and three is too long – we put together RideFlag.
Working with our IP attorneys, we filed for the trademark and now own RideFlag.com, RideFlag.net, FlagRide.com, etc. Our trademark, RideFlag, is distinctive and speaks to what we do. The term ride is suggestive for carpooling and transportation, and flag is suggestive of marking a ride and labelling a ride. RideFlag has a stronger position that can scale and represent what our technology aims to achieve, so we officially registered and own the trademark RideFlag.
How is RideFlag impacting the way we travel?
The challenge is that there has never been an easy, reliable and accurate method for occupancy verification. This is the opportunity RideFlag offers with our smartphone optic biometric validation tool. Occupancy count is a key metric that has been missing, but our tool offers an accelerated path to achieving. To tackle this, we built a world-class technology engineering team, filed for Intellectual Property and engineered a highly innovative tool that accurately validates occupancy. In the future, government agencies/toll operators will have to rely less on fuel tax and more on alternate ways of taxing vehicle use, such as Road Use Charge (RUC) policies. In essence, occupancy is going to play a role in how much a vehicle is charged.
Traffic congestion is a major issue on our roadways, and 80-90% are single occupancy vehicles (SOV). Due to COVID-19, traffic congestion will increase as SOV will rise because of social distancing. There has never been a better time than now to incentivize carpooling as people will need more motivation to drive with passengers.
What are the benefits of RideFlag’s technology and app?
Only one smartphone is required to use RideFlag’s app – either by the driver or any occupant in the car – and no additional hardware is required. No driver handling of the device is ever required and High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) validation can happen at any time.
The tool is designed to be easily integrated with current tolling operator systems to help mitigate cheating and enforce HOV compliance. Government agencies and tolling operators are losing significant amount of revenue from stolen lane capacity and maintenance of roadside HOV validation systems. Current roadside validation systems can be time-consuming and poses safety risks. Therefore, with our tool, government agencies and tolling operators can save on costs and labour while improving lane performance and road safety.
Users benefit from using our tool for HOV compliance by being offered opportunities of saving on commuting costs by receiving toll-free or discounted tolls based on how many passengers are in a vehicle. Our smartphone app is designed to provide an easy, reliable and accurate tool to users, which is proven to be safe and private as no images or information is saved or sent to the cloud. In addition, the practice of using our tool is environmentally friendly as it aims to reduce the number of cars on the road and, in turn, reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
How important is intellectual property protection to RideFlag’s business?
We look at our brand protection holistically. Intellectual property is critical and includes not only trademarks but patents. Acquiring and owning a patent is critical as it encourages private investment to build innovation. For example, you wouldn’t build a house on land that you didn’t own. If you want to protect your investment (i.e., house), you should invest in and own the land. Just as importantly, our investment in intellectual property protection offers us the freedom to operate and prevents attacks from competitors.
For the past twenty years, I have accumulated numerous trademarks and patents for my businesses. These include two major juice brands, which have both been acquired by Fortune 500 companies. The value of the brands was directly related to the fact that I registered the intellectual property. The trademark and related intellectual assets’ value would have been greatly diminished had the registered trademarks not been granted.
What advice would you give to a technology start-up as it relates to protecting their trademarks and related IP assets?
It is essential to invest in a strong Intellectual Property firm; they are your long-term partner. A trusted lawyer is like a family doctor or dentist who knows your history and watches you grow. My IP attorney and I have worked together for over twenty years. He is not only our lead IP attorney but has seen our business grow from the beginning and is always there to protect and serve in our best interest.
Editor’s note: RideFlag Technologies, Inc. is a client of the Editor.