DesignWorks Homes accuses Realtors of stealing designs

By Amanda Thomas | May 13, 2018

DesignWorks Homes Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit accusing a Columbia real estate agency of stealing its designs.

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JEFFERSON CITY –  DesignWorks Homes Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit accusing a Columbia real estate agency of stealing its designs. 

Springfield-based DesignWorks, a design build company, and its home designer Charles Lawrence James filed the lawsuit May 4 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. The copyright infringement lawsuit was filed against Columbia House of Brokers Realty Inc. doing business as House of Brokers Inc. and Realtors Shannon L. O’Brien, Carol S. Denninghoff, Nicole Waldschlager and Deborah Ann Fisher. 

The copyrighted home designs in question have a triangular atrium design with stairs as part of the main room. According to court documents, James designed the home in 1996 and it was constructed at 4306 Melrose Drive in Columbia. The design proved popular for the company and it built at least four similar homes between 1996 to 2001. The plaintiffs won the 1998 Regency Award from the Home Builders Association of Columbia for the design. 

The original design received a registered copyright in May 2004. DesignWorks also created derivative work based on the original designs in June 2013, which also received a registered copyright. On April 22, James applied for a copyright for the technical drawings for a property at 1713 Kenilworth in Columbia. 

The company claims it discovered that defendants had uploaded “a reproduction or derivative of their protected design” on Realtor.com in 2017 to market the Kenilworth property. The lawsuit notes that works made available on the internet are at risk of being unlawfully reproduced or distributed by millions of users. 

“In order to protect copyrighted works from being unlawfully reproduced or distributed it is important to ensure that any copyright protected works are properly disseminated and that the true author is properly attributed,” the lawsuit said. 

DesignWorks is represented by Kenneth Caldwell of Caldwell Law Firm PC in Kansas City. 

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