August 16, 2005
Judge Michael B. Mukasey of Federal District
Court in Manhattan ruled on August 10 that Massachusetts-based
architect Thomas Shine could proceed with his lawsuit against
architect David Childs, FAIA. The suit, originally filed in
November 2004, alleges that Childs, a principal at Skidmore
Owings and Merrill (SOM), copied a skyscraper design that
Shine had developed while a Masters student at Yale Architecture
School, for his original design for the World Trade Center
Freedom Tower. Shine had presented the idea, a twisting tower
with a faceted facade called Olympic Tower, to
Childs in the fall of 1999.
In March SOM had filed a motion to dismiss
the case, claiming that Childs had not copied Shines
design, and that both Olympic Tower and an earlier design,
called Shine 99, were unoriginal and ineligible for copyright
In his ruling, Mukasey said that some
might find that the Freedom Tower's twisting shape and
undulating diamond-shaped facade make it substantially similar
to Olympic Tower, and therefore an improper appropriation
of copyrighted artistic expression.
Still, the Judge held out that "It
is possible, even likely, that some ordinary observers might
not find the two towers to be substantially similar because,
as defendants note, there are differences between the Freedom
Tower and Olympic Tower."
The Freedom Tower design was changed
on June 29, but according to the court, because defendants
original design for the Freedom Tower remains in the public
domain, Shines infringement claim stands.
SOM spokesperson Elizabeth Kubany says
that three of Shines tower images, thrown out of the
case because they had been doctored, were clearly an
attempt at deception. She calls the appearance in the
suit of Shine 99, which was also thrown out by
the judge, another attempt by Shine to make a case where
there is none.
Shine says the three pictures were unintentionally
switched, and that the Shine 99 project was a relatively insignificant
part of his case. Were very pleased that the case
is moving foward, he says.