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L.A. Firm Wins Lawsuit over Copied Home

In an unusual case testing the Architecture Works Copyright Protection Act of 1990, a jury awarded the Los Angeles-based firm, Hablinski + Manion Architecture, (formerly known as William Hablinski Architecture) approximately $5.9 million after plans for a Bel Air home they’d designed were copied and adapted to a Beverly Hills site.

In mid-April, a jury determined that Amir Construction, Inc., and EuroConcepts, Inc., were guilty of conspiring to reproduce house plans that originated in the Hablinksi office. The jury found a “preponderance of evidence” that a Hablinski employee had copied and adapted the original technical drawings and elements of the architectural work for the $14 million mansion.

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The fate of the former employee has yet to be determined, as Hablinski + Manion is still seeking damages in a state court arbitration proceeding.

The federal suit was filed in Fall 2003 and it alleged copyright infringement, false advertising, conspiracy, and other claims. William Hablinski is said to have spent 3,800 hours on the design.

While intellectual property cases are not unusual in the entertainment industry, it’s uncommon for architects to pursue litigation, despite the fact that infringements are made on a regular basis.

“This is a case where Mr. Hablinski wanted to put his foot down,” says Peter Bezek, Managing Partner at Foley & Bezek, LLP, the Santa Barbara law firm handling the case. “I’m proud that he stuck to his guns and remained focused.” Bezek says that he has been approached by other architects in the past but has never litigated this type of case because of the financial risk and emotional drain on the plaintiff.

Allison Milionis

 

 

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