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Architect Loses Copyright Suit

Architect, June 12, 2014

Zalewski v. Cicero underscores the difficulty that courts face in determining where imitation ends and originality begins in the design of buildings.

On June 5, a New York-based federal appeals courts tackled the tricky question of how to define originality in architecture, ruling against an architect who claimed two construction companies copied his designs for colonial homes.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s ruling that found James Zalewski, a New York architect, did not have his copyright infringed when the companies and their contractors constructed houses based on his designs, after the licenses he sold to the companies had expired. The defendants in the case included Rensselaer, N.Y.-based Cicero Builder and Albany, N.Y.-based T.P. Builders.

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