Cook County Record

Monday, October 21, 2019

Copyright lawsuit vs home builder deconstructed; Judge: More 'sufficient facts' required to buttress case


By Mary Ann Magnell | Aug 15, 2018

CHICAGO - Saying an architectural firm needs to do more to demonstrate its claims a homebuilder improperly copied some of the architect's home designs, a federal judge has taken down, for now, the copyright infringement lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Sara L. Ellis stated the plaintiffs brought only “conclusory allegations to support their claims” in the willful and non-willful copyright infringement case.

The lawsuit was filed by plaintiffs Design Basics LLC and Carmichael & Dame Designs, Inc. (CDD) against defendants WK Olson Architects Inc., as the plaintiffs said they found the defendant’s websites appeared to copy 18 home plans created by the plaintiff. 

Ellis stated in the eight-page filing the plaintiffs must “do more than simply allege” the copying of the home designs, and “must provide some facts.” Further, she said, the plaintiffs “do not provide even a representative sample of how WK Olson’s plans directly replicate theirs or include similar features, leaving WK Olson guessing as to what forms the basis of the plaintiffs’ infringement claims.

“Without any identification of similar elements,” the judge said, “and instead relying only on a blanket statement of copying without any factual basis for support, the plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently suggest substantial similarity.”

The plaintiffs argued the judge applied “too high of a standard” in the motion to dismiss. In response, the judge stated the plaintiffs “need not provide an exhaustive list of each and every example of infringement, they must at least provide sufficient facts to make their copyright infringement facts plausible.” 

According to documents filed in the case, Design Basics has created more than 350 home design plans since 2009, each of which they estimate takes 55-90 hours to create. All plans have been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. The plaintiff offers single-build licenses for these designs for a fee of between $700 and $6,000. In the past several years, the plaintiffs said they have noticed increased “piracy” of its copyrighted home designs since its marketing efforts have increased. 

The discovery of these instances, according to the filing, has led to “Design Basics to bring lawsuits to discourage copyright infringement of its architectural works.” 

The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Sean J. Quinn, of the firm of Ladue Curran & Kuehn, of South Bend, Ind.

The defendants are represented by attorneys Edward F. Dunne and Michelle M. Blum, of the firm of Karbal, Cohen, Economou, Silk & Dunne LLC, of Chicago. 

U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division case No. 17 C 7432 


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Organizations in this Story

Karbal Cohen Ecnomou Silk Dunne LLC U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Chicago Division

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