10 November 2015Copyright

Architectural drawing copyright dispute set to continue

A US construction company’s request for a quick judgment clarifying that a rival copied the architectural design for one its proposed houses has failed after it failed to show enough evidence of infringement.

Tennessee-based Nason Homes filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that rival Billy’s Construction’s residential home in Tennessee was an “exact replica” of the architectural design outlined in its Alder Plan.

The Alder Plan is a drawing of a t wo-storey home with five bedrooms. The copyright covering the design of the plan was assigned to Nason Homes in 2012.

In December 2013, Billy’s Construction was granted a permit to build what Nason Homes described as a “strikingly similar” house to the Alder Plan.

Nason Homes discovered the alleged infringement via images posted by Billy’s Construction on its official Facebook page.

In February 2014, Nason Homes filed a complaint at the US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee alleging infringement of the Alder Plan.

For a US court to determine infringement, a plaintiff must show that it owns both a valid copyright and that the allegedly infringing party had access to the work and copied the protectable aspects.

Judge Kevin Sharp, presiding over the case, did not doubt the validity of Nason Homes’ ownership to the copyright, nor did he reject the claim that Billy’s Construction had access to the work.

But he rejected Nason Homes’s motion on the grounds that the evidence it presented was not sufficient enough to show that the two designs were similar.

“The record contains almost nothing to show that the specific layout of defendant’s home is similar to the Alder Plan,” Sharp wrote.

He added: “There are no drawings, photographs, or measurements of the floorplan itself ... although the exterior photographs suggest broad similarities between the two homes—the general shape of the buildings, the placement of the porches, and the style of roof—these photographs show similarity only in the use of individual features.”

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