Monday, May 3, 2010

Copyright Infringement and Architecture

This 2nd Circuit case involves a dispute that arose between plaintiff (Peter F. Gaito Architecture) and defendant (Simone Development Corp). Gaito pulled his designs and involvement out of a project called the "Church Street Project" in New York. The defendant decided to go ahead with the plans and the plaintiff believed that the "new" plans were too similar to his own. Rather than answering the complaint and seeking summary judgment, the defendant asked the court to dismiss the complaint immediately on the theory that there were not enough similarities between the two sets of plans.

This is a very recent decision by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, in order to cut costs for defendants and dismiss cases when there is no "substantial similarity". The interesting part of this case is that there are significant similarities. The plaintiff was creating a high-rise residential tower with shopping structures at the bottom of it. It included a water structure, a park, parking for residential and commercial tenants etc. These were also included in the "new" plan, and the spots in which they were to be built were also the same.

The court decided that there are so many high-rise residential spots with very similar structure and basically the same ideas that the plaintiff had in his copyrighted plans. Therefore, although the plans were very similar, based on other high-rise residencies, similarities that show between all of them cannot count toward the case. They believed the plans as a whole were substantially different and that there were no significant similarities for the court to decide upon.

In my opinion, this is a huge breakthrough because copyright infringment cases can be crushed before they even have the time to be processed through the court. A minor worry about this decision is that many more "frivolous" requests for dismissal will be made in many copyright cases and can delay court processes that need to take place. Defendants will learn to abuse this dismissal request just like all of the others in order to delay court dates and crush weak apponents in a battle of money.

Here is the case:

Here is an article I found about the case:

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