Seventh Circuit: Modifications to Architectural Plan Made at Direction of Commissioning Party Held Not Sufficiently Original to Engender Copyright Protection

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Johnnie Utah

On July 26, 2011, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal on summary judgment of an architectural copyright infringement claim in Nova Design Build, Inc. v. Grace Hotels, LLC.  The plaintiff architectural design firm sued a former client, alleging that the owner of a Holiday Inn Express location infringed the plaintiff’s “design copyright” (whatever that is) by building the hotel based upon the plaintiff’s plans after failing to pay all of the money allegedly due for those plans.

The district court had dismissed the case on the ground that the identifying materials submitted with the plaintiff’s copyright application were not “bona fide” copies and therefore the registration was invalid.  The court found that the original plans had been burgled from its offices (!) and therefore it had to re-construct the plans from memory.  The district court held that this fact was sufficient to invalidate the registration, foreclosing any relief for copyright infringement. [Read more…]