Private developer will retain intellectual property rights for Presto card



TORONTO -- Taxpayers are putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the Presto card while the private developer retains the intellectual property rights to sell the technology outside Canada.

It will cost the public about $700 million by 2016 to bring the first- and second-generation single-transit fare technology to Ottawa and the Greater Toronto/Hamilton Area.

The Ministry of Transportation confirmed Friday that while Metrolinx has the right to market the product in Canada, Accenture as the contractor has held onto the global rights.

"Much of the intellectual property was already owned by Accenture, which they brought to the table for the Presto development," David Salter, a spokesperson for Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli, said in an e-mail. "The value of the intellectual property rights are a small portion of the value of Presto -- the majority of Presto's cost is for hardware, devices and service.

"Metrolinx gains the Canadian intellectual property rights, while Accenture maintains the global rights. As part of this agreement, Metrolinx will receive ongoing royalties based on Accenture's success in globally marketing the product. Metrolinx is also receiving a multi-million lump sum payment."

Chiarelli said this week that the technology held out the possibility of making money for taxpayers through its sale to other jurisdictions.

Tory MPP Frank Klees said he doesn't believe that Presto has the ability to deliver the open-payment fare card -- the so-called second-generation technology which allows debit and credit card use -- as planned in Ottawa and Toronto.

"They're simply undertaking to develop it with taxpayer dollars," he said.

Klees said he finds it disturbing that the Ontario government is considering monetizing the Presto technology.

"Metrolinx and Presto should not be in competition with the private sector," Klees said Friday. "The technology is there. We should not be pouring millions of dollars into this organization. A PC government would certainly put a hold on this. Why the rush?"

Klees' proposal to send the project back to the tendering process would drive up costs and delay the implementation of a seamless transit system, Salter said.

Currently, Presto is used in Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Brampton, the Regions of York and Durham, 14 TTC subway stations and all GO Transit trains and buses.

Salter said it was important that all municipalities use the same technology for the convenience of consumers moving from system to system.

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