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Federal Copyright Infringement (Architectural Drawings)

Discussion in 'Copyright, Trademark, Patent Law' started by VADesigner, Jun 27, 2009.

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  1. VADesigner

    VADesigner Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Several years ago I had a contract with a particular client to provide design SERVICES, which were to include drawings for a townhouse development. The agreement was for 2 designs to be replicated throughout 3 buildings for a total of 18 units - 6 units per building. The client agreed to pay me an initial sum for the design, and then a "usage fee" for each time the design was used throughout the project.

    My contract has the following language:
    "Ownership of Documents: All documents produced by the Firm under this Agreement shall remain the property of the Firm and may not be used by the Client for any other endeavor without the written consent of the Firm. In the event that invoices to the Client are past due, the Firm may require returned to it all documents produced by the Firm and any copies thereof."

    The client took a set of unfinished drawings, removed my titleblock with my firm's information and copyright, and submitted them for the construction of the first building (6 units).

    I immediately filed the drawings with the Library of Congress.

    The client subsequently applied for the foundation-only permit for the second building, however still based off my drawings.

    The client also then hired a draftsman to continue the design. I contacted this person and, as far as I know, he has ceased work on the drawings.

    I spoke with a dozen or more attorneys, all of whom said I definitely had a case, but none of whom were willing to take the case on any sort of contingency - except one who was willing to send letters on my behalf only.

    In essence, I was told that it would take $50k or more to "win" $50k or more.

    It is now 3 years later...Actually, the townhouses didn't sell because of the market and the clients poor understanding of the market. The second building is still unfinished and no permit has been pulled on the 3rd building to my knowledge. However, it would not surprise me if this guy did not try and pull something, either here, or somewhere else.

    1. I understand that there are statutes of limitation and all, but is there anything that can be done at this point?

    2. Also, what can be done if this former-client attempts to gain a permit on the last 2 buildings based on my design?

    3. Can't the county permitting office be held liable for issuing the permit?

    4. Does anyone know a good attorney who would want to take this case on contingency?

    The following came out in the paper last week:
    Petition could now stop foreclosure on 18 home lots

    "A chapter 11 petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court will stop the foreclosure on an 18-lot townhome property in ..., its developer said Friday.

    The petition for [Developer], managing member of ... LLC, was filed in federal court in ... -- two days before it was set to go up for auction -- according to online court records.

    [The Development] consists of 18 building lots, including six already built three-bedroom, 21/2-bath townhouses. The property is worth $1.9 million, according to an appraisal done in January, court documents state.

    [Developer]'s liabilities are listed as about $1.6 million. On Friday, he blamed his lender, United Bank, for issues surrounding the development on ... Road just south of ... Court.

    "The lender in this case is causing the problem, not us," [Developer] said. "There has been some contingent with regard to pricing, etc. [Filing] the Chapter 11 bankruptcy is part of what's just going to be an ongoing lawsuit."

    An ad for a trustee's sale says the 12 remaining building lots were to be sold at auction on June 11.

    "[The bank] filed a foreclosure, but that's all they have got in their defense right now," [Developer] said. "The Chapter 11 filing sets aside the foreclosure. Then, the lawsuit follows. Hopefully, heads will roll down there after that. It's another forced default by [The bank], another internal screw-up that could've been avoided."

    He declined to detail the issues he was having with the bank, but said he expected to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the next 60-90 days.

    [Developer] plans to continue with his development plans.

    "As far as we're concerned, we're going to move forward with it," he said.

    [The bank] Vice President ... declined to comment on Friday afternoon.

    ... town planner ... said the town staff is "starting to see a lot more" foreclosures on properties owned by developers.

    "I think we're starting to see the second wave," he said. "The first was property owners with bad mortgages. Now, it's going to be developers who overextended themselves."
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2009
  2. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    1. Without hearing all the details, impossible to give you perfect answers - I think you understand.

    2. If it takes 50K of work to win 50K, then there is no attorney who will work on contingency. Are you willing to have all your winnings paid to the attorney? If so... then MAYBE an attorney might do the work but I would say it's highly likely they won't - why chance spending $50,000 on time just for the possibility of getting paid?

    3. You might want to send a cease and desist to all of them and, perhaps, you might be able to place some type of lien on the property, I don't know. But the big question is why such a straightforward case of breach of contract would take $50,000 to win or get a preliminary injunction.

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