Street furniture? Outdoor advertising? Vélib' bike rental?
These three business activities, operating in 4280 cities worldwide, are the hallmarks of JC Decaux, a hugely successful public company, established in France. The company was founded by Jean Claude Decaux in 1964, which makes it a young company in France and Europe, where companies of similar stature often date their foundation back one or two centuries.
Indeed, JC Decaux invented the modern advertising (and advertiser-financed) bus shelter, changed the face of billboards, and replaced the 478 men-only outdoor urinals, installed in Paris in 1830, with unisex (even universal access) public toilets. Considered street furniture, these modern public conveniences are also fully automated, self-cleaning and regularly serviced by JC Decaux.
On a linguistic and socio-cultural level, JC Decaux’s modern street furniture is no less significant (e.g.; Humphreys, 1970). In France, having replaced the 19th century term “vespasienne” an eponym derived from the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who taxed the collection of urine (vectigal urinae), the JC Decaux public conveniences are called “sanisettes”, in the UK “Superloos”, and in San Francisco “port-a-potties”!
The rest is history since JC Decaux street furniture and outdoor advertising systems are now operating in more than 70 countries worldwide. JC Decaux even recently signed on as a partner for the installation and maintenance of Arbor Informaticus etrees, beginning in the city of Nevers, in Burgundy, France, in May 2017.
JC Decaux’s flagship products are all patented whether it is the bus shelters, the bike racks or the port-a-potties. And many of the various components of the furniture are also patented.
Below, a picture of the 1830 “vespasienne” and JC Decaux’s 20th century universal access “sanisette” in Paris.
JC Decaux Group
Humphreys, L. (1970) Tearoom Trade. London, UK: Ducksworth Overlook.
Oh, patents! Arbor Informaticus