LUBBOCK, TX -- Attorneys from Lubbock's McCleskey, Harriger, Brazill & Graf LLP won a major victory in a copyright infringement case after successfully defending local custom home builder Dan Wilson and Dan Wilson Homes Inc.
On Jan. 29, Judge Sam R. Cummings of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Lubbock ruled that Mr. Wilson, Dan Wilson Homes and draftsman Ben Lack did not infringe the copyrighted house plans held by architect Marshall Hunn of Lubbock's Hunn Designs.
Judge Cummings also ruled that Wilson and Mr. Lack are entitled to attorneys' fees in an amount to be determined later. The case is Marshall Hunn v. Dan Wilson Homes Inc., et al., No. 5:12-CV-081-C.
"We're obviously thrilled that the judge ruled in our clients' favor," says Dustin R. Burrows, lead attorney for Dan Wilson Homes and a partner in The McCleskey Law Firm. "It's fairly unusual to be awarded attorneys' fees, so we feel like our client is being made as close to whole as possible."
Hunn Designs had been hired by Dan Wilson Homes to draft plans for several custom homes, and Mr. Lack was the draftsman assigned to work with Mr. Wilson on the projects. Before the plans were finished, however, Mr. Lack left Hunn Designs and opened his own drafting firm. Mr. Wilson attempted on several occasions to complete the plans with Hunn Designs, but claimed the company was non-responsive and never finished the work.
Ultimately, Mr. Wilson hired Mr. Lack to finish the plans, prompting the lawsuit.
"Mr. Hunn claimed he owned the copyright to the plans even though the homeowners themselves had essentially designed their dream homes and hired Mr. Wilson to turn their visions into reality," says Marion (Rion) Sanford, a partner in The McCleskey Law Firm and co-counsel to Mr. Burrows. "Mr. Hunn's job was simply to translate the homeowners' layman drawings into architectural plans. The plans never belonged to Mr. Hunn, nor were they his creation."
While the two companies were working together, Mr. Hunn delivered multiple sets of preliminary plans to Mr. Wilson with no restrictions on use, and both parties intended for the plans to be used to further the construction process, Mr. Burrows says.
"The judge's finding that Dan Wilson Homes had an implied license to finish the plans is noteworthy," he says. "That's been danced around before in the architectural world but I've never seen it decided so clearly."