Architects are artists too!

September 1, 2015 Published by

The recent case Coles v Former and Ors [2015] is an interesting case that would be particularly appreciated by architects and designers. The claimant purchased a home from the original owners who had together with an architect come up with ideas and design plans for the house. The original architect invested considerable creative effort into the plans having spent more than 100 hours coming up with and implementing the vision of the original home owners.

When the claimants bought the house, the under bidders went to the original builders and asked them to construct a similar house on a block of land that was just around the corner in the same gated community as the claimants new home. Upon hearing this, the claimants had the copyright in the plans assigned to them from the architect as they wanted their house to be the only one with what they believed to be a very unique and individual design. The under-bidders were warned by legal letters, however they continued forward and managed to have the house successfully built as an almost replica of the claimants.

The defendants contested the claim that the architect was the sole owner of the copyright. The court however found in favour of the claimants determining that the architects substantial work and investment in the designs and planning gave him independent copyright. It was found that the under bidders house was very similar to that of the claimants and therefore the 3D building was an infringement of the 2D plans.

While the court did not order a complete demolition of the house, the defendants were required to make sufficient changes to the exterior being the roof, exterior windows and stone edge trim.

The decision highlights the significant value of copyright in architect’s designs and plans as demonstrated by the remedy ordered.

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