A local tech developer says the provincial government took its proposal for a mobile travel application and produced it with a different company.
In August, the tourism department announced the launch of a digital travel guide for the iPhone, including maps, points of interest, weather reports and a directory of tourism operators.
But a Mount Pearl developer, in a letter to the Telegram (printed on Page 18 of today's edition) says ideas it submitted and reviewed by the provincial government "appear practically the same as those now being proudly passed off as the ideas of a forward-thinking provincial government," calling it a betrayal of trust and "potentially an infringement of our rights."
Beachrok director David Randell told the Telegram his company's project - the purpose for the founding of the company - dates back to 2006, and the company had sought funding from the provincial government as well as the federal government, and sought financial and other assistance from the Genesis Centre at Memorial University.
"We came up with something. We put it together. We had a submission that we refined over the years. It went to a number of different government bodies. It's not a fast process. It's a very slow process," said Randell. "We were told that no one else was doing exactly what we were doing."
He said there was more support from the federal level but blamed "delays and indecision" on the part of the provincial government for the project not progressing, and said after securing funding from a federal agency, they discovered that a U.S.-based business had beaten them to market on the technological aspect of their proposal.
Randell called the app launched by the provincial government as a "carbon copy of our proprietary intellectual property," but stressed it's the provincial government that he feels is in the wrong here, and not the companies, ZedIt and MobileFringe, in partnership with Target Marketing.
"ZedIt is a reputable company. We have no questions or concerns in that regard. We feel that everything they would have done would have been completely above-board and would have been as a result of the approach of the provincial government to do it. Anyone would have done it, so no, no concerns there."
Randell said Beachrok can't afford to pursue legal action in the matter.
"We are not in the financial position to take on a provincial government," he said. "They can drag this out for as long as they want. They can go for the next seven years or more, I'm sure. For us to do it, I don't think anyone is going to say, 'Yeah, we'll take it on for whatever and you don't need to worry about paying us.' It's not like a personal injury matter." He says he brought his concerns to the provincial government, though, and met with a couple of assistant deputy ministers, but declined to say who. "What they did indicate was they'd like to know how this thing developed and how it progressed and what my concerns were, because they'd like to ensure whatever I was concerned about it didn't happen to anybody else, but they were most adamant ... in terms of saying, 'This is not your idea,' but that's as far as they went."
Tourism Minister Terry French is the spokesman for the department and was unavailable to comment Friday, but a department spokesman emailed a written statement, stating there is no connection between the app released by the department and Beachrok Technologies.
"Given the increasing use of online tools to promote travel and tourism, the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation decided in 2011 to develop a mobile tourism app that would be free for users," reads the statement. "The Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation procured its mobile tourism app via its agency of record. The agency of record engaged an independent third party to supply the required application. There is no connection between the department's Traveller's Guide Mobile App and Beachrok Technologies."
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