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Homeowners, builders, architects should be wary of recent case law relating to the consequences of copying building plans. In the recent decision in Coles v Dormer & Ors [2015] SCQ 224, the Supreme Court of Queensland found that substantially copying building plans and reproducing a building constituted copyright infringement.

The cautionary tale arising from the decision in Coles v Dormer affirms recent decisions1 that the copying and reproduction of a two dimensional design into a three dimensional building2 may have significant consequences. In this case, the Supreme Court of Queensland ordered injunctive relief that:

“The defendants shall promptly take the following action in respect of the following external features of the third defendants’ house at lot 23 The Sands Estate Port Douglas:

  1. Feature: Dormer roofs
    Action: Remove the dormer roofs.
  2. Feature: Arched and circular windows at the front of the house 22 and such other exterior arched and circular windows as are ordinarily visible from public paths or streets.
    Action: Remove and replace with rectangular or square windows and any external remnant space, appearance or outline of the arched and circular window shapes be filled and concealed by rendering.
  3. Feature: Stone edge trim corners at the front of the house and such other stone edge trim corners as are ordinarily visible from public paths or streets.
    Action: Grind, cut away or remove the areas of stone edge trim to the extent necessary to render those areas flush with the walls and fill and conceal by render any remnant appearance or outline of the stone edge trim”.3

In making these Orders Justice Henry relevantly noted that “at first blush the granting of an injunction might seem oppressive given the… house has already been built. But the defendants chose to press on and build the house after being warned of the consequences. Indeed they continued to build well knowing this action was afoot”4. The outcome of this case clearly demonstrates that intellectual property should form a significant consideration prior to commencing a build and ensuring that any allegations of intellectual property infringement are swiftly addressed.

It is always best to seek the right advice first to avoid painful (and often expensive) fumbles in the future.

Irish Bentley Lawyers have significant experience in intellectual property law. We have been involved in a number of trade marks and copyright disputes. We prefer to provide most of our services on a fixed price basis (rather than a time basis) where possible.

Please note that the above does not constitute legal advice and Irish Bentley Lawyers make no representations or warranties as to the accuracy of any of the information contained herein. If you have a copyright issue, then please do not hesitate to contact the team at Irish Bentley Lawyers – there is no substitute for proper legal advice based on your individual and unique circumstances.

1 Cf. Tamawood Limited v Habitare Developments Pty Ltd (Administrators Appointed) (Receivers and Managers Appointed) [2015] FCAFC 65.
2 Section 21(3) of the (Cth).
3 Coles v Dormer & Ors [2015] SCQ 224 at 110.
4 Ibid at 93.

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