Court Rules Against House Copycat 1

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Friday, August 7th, 2015
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A judge has ordered the roof, windows and stone trim of a million-dollar far north Queensland home be changed after it was built to look the same as a house in the same estate.

Justice James Henry found the building of the Port Douglas home, which was commissioned by John and Edith Breden when they were outbid on the original, violated copyright laws.

He also found the Port Douglas Builders, which built both houses, had pressed ahead with the million-dollar construction despite being told the original’s new owner, Stephen Coles, had bought the rights to the plan from the architect.

Mr Coles bought the original $1.15 million home in 2013 after being “overwhelmed” by its beauty and “French Provincial style with a Caribbean influence”.

He said it had been unique in Port Douglas and argued the replica could decrease its value.

“To the passing observer it is particularly the …. exterior of arched and round windows, stone edge trim on the corners and dormer roofs which now makes the Bredens’ house appear identical to the Coles house,” Justice Henry said in his written judgment.

“It is true the general similarity in size or scale exacerbates the appearance of replication.”

The builders said they told the former owners of the first house about the Breden’s intention to replicate their design.

“They congratulated us, said ‘I hope you do well,'” one of them, Michael Clark, told the trial.

Justice James Henry found that, while the original owners influenced the first house’s design, the replica had been built in line with architect plans.

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  1. Jarrod James

    One would have thought the outright purchase of plans from the architect would have been a pretty rare phenomenon, since architects would not normally want to sign away their intellectual rights, though obviously in this case that's what happened.

    I assume also, given the decision in this case, that those rights passed from the original owner to the new owner upon the completion of the transaction.

    Obviously, what this case demonstrates is the need to ensure that, when designs are replicated, appropriate copyright permission to do so has been sought.