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Architect pursues copyright damages from Connecticut homebuilder

The success of thriving small businesses here in Connecticut often depends on the uniqueness of their ideas. Small and large business owners often ask themselves: 'What can we offer that our competitors cannot?' It is for this reason, among others, that copyright protection is so important.

For example, an architectural firm recently sought damages from a homebuilder here in Connecticut under the Copyright Act after the homebuilder allegedly marketed the architect's home designs as the builder's own.

The relationship between the two companies began in 1992, when the architectural firm contracted with the homebuilder to permit it to use some blueprints that the firm had copyrighted in the 1980s.

Later, the contract between the two companies was terminated, but the homebuilder still posted drawings of the architect's home designs on its websites in order to advertise its ability to create the homes. A real estate company also posted the drawings.

The architect filed a copyright complaint, but the homebuilder and real estate companies attempted to have the claim dismissed. A U.S. District Court judge in Connecticut dismissed the case, noting that the copied drawings did not actually reveal the architectural plans of the structure and thus they did not violate the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act.

However, on appeal, the Second Circuit said that the mere fact that the drawings are not detailed enough to guide the building of a home does not mean that they are not protected by any copyright laws; in fact, they are protected by the more broad Copyright Act.

He explained: "Copyright protection of a pictorial work, whether depicting a house, or a flower, or a donkey, or an abstract design, does not depend on any degree of detail."

The architectural firm will now presumably go on to pursue damages.

Copyright law is very complicated, but it is nonetheless important to ensure that as a business owner these rights are not violated.

Source: Law.com, "Detailed or Not, Drawing Was Creative Enough to Pass Copyright Protection Test," Mark Hamblett, Aug. 16, 2012

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