Dayton’s Commuter Ads wins key patent after 12 years of work

A recent photo of the CommuterAds team
A recent photo of the CommuterAds team

A Dayton company that specializes in targeted advertising on public transportation is celebrating not only emerging from its second recession — but the winning of a crucial new patent.

The reward of a journey lasting 12 years and 159 days, CommuterAds has been awarded a patent for the “method and device for increasing advertising revenue on public transit systems via transit scheduler and enunciator systems.”

“It validates the hard work of the entire CommuterAds team, our stakeholders, our shareholders and all of our partners from over the years,” Russ Gottesman, CommuterAds chief executive, said in an interview. “That’s most important.”

Of note: The initial patent examiner inspecting CommuterAds’ patent bid had a history of rejecting a full 97% of the initial patents that crossed his desk, Gottesman said.

That did not stop patent No. US 10,984,449 B2.

“For us to overcome that was huge,” Gottesman said.

Leaders of CommuterAds, now entering their 13th year in business, see the patent as an arguable part of a roster of historic patents tied to Dayton innovators, including the cash register, the stepladder, the self-starting auto ignition and the pop top beverage can.

The patent includes a description of creating inventory of all transit stops corresponding to geo-codes while identifying specific stops and locations to broadcast a message — messages tailored to specific locations, down to the ZIP code.

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Which turned out to be timely indeed in the pandemic’s first year. CommutersAds was able to use its technology to tailor health-focused messages to public transit passengers, many of whom were and are front-line workers who continue to work at hospitals, groceries, logistics centers and elsewhere.

“As the pandemic evolved, so did our messaging,” Gottesman said.

“We had the privilege of launching our business at the Entrepreneurs’ Center where we were surrounded by other experienced entrepreneurs who encouraged us to stay resolute in our intellectual property strategy,” said CommuterAds Co-founder Katie Hill (Gottesman). “We did just that, and it paid off.”

Patents legally protect covered goods and services, providing a path via federal courts and the International Trade Commission to seek injunctions and damages against those who infringe on a patent’s claims.

Dan Gurfinkel, the Chicago intellectual property attorney who executed CommuterAds’s patent, said in a release: “Owning a patent provides the patentee the power to keep anyone else from making using or selling products or services covered by the claims of the patent.”

This is now the second recession that CommuterAds has weathered. Like many other businesses last year, CommuterAds took a revenue hit. But it kept all of its employees, the CEO said.

So 2021 will be a recovery year, Gottesman acknowledged. But so far, the first quarter is looking better, with 22% growth year-over-year compared to last year’s first quarter (which was a non-pandemic quarter, largely.)

The business has 12 total employees and four local employees

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