Decisions in Brief

Decisions in Brief

By John C. Gatz

©2017. Published in Landslide, Vol. 10, No. 2, November/December 2017, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

COPYRIGHTS

Home Design Copyright Not Infringed

Design Basics, LLC v. Lexington Homes, Inc., 858 F.3d 1093, 123 U.S.P.Q.2d 1128 (7th Cir. 2017). Design Basics produces designs for single-family homes for the mass market. Lexington is a home builder that Design Basics accused of infringing four copyrighted home designs. The district court granted summary judgment to Lexington, finding that Design Basics had not shown that Lexington had access its four designs. Design Basics appealed.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Seventh Circuit initially noted that the copyright for an architectural work does not include standard features found in buildings. The Seventh Circuit noted that both the doctrine of scenes a faire and the doctrine of merger may limit the copyright protectable elements of an architectural work. The Seventh Circuit found that to the extent Lexington’s designs resembled Design Basics’ plans, it was because they both resemble common home designs in the public domain. The home plans at issue here were based on functional requirements for a home and industry standards. Therefore, any similarities between Lexington’s designs and Design Basics plans did not involve protectable elements of Design Basics’ copyrights, but simply involved common features found in homes. The Seventh Circuit further found that the Design Basics did not show that Lexington had access to its designs. Design Basics posted the designs on their website, but offered no evidence that Lexington had ever accessed the website. The Seventh Circuit found that simply having a copyrighted home design on a website is not sufficient to allow an inference to be made that an alleged infringer accessed the materials.

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