Home Design Firm Awarded $1.3 Million in Copyright Case

by lgrant@solagroup.com

A federal district court has awarded $1.3 million to a Texas design firm in an architectural copyright case, according to Osha Liang LLP.

Houston-based Hewlett Custom Home Designs Inc., whose clients include Fortune 500 executives and celebrities such as Charles Barkley, claimed that Frontier Custom Builders Inc. infringed Hewlett’s copyrighted designs in violation of federal law.

The jury in the U.S. District Court in Houston found that Frontier committed copyright infringement by constructing and marketing 19 houses that infringed Hewlett’s copyrighted designs. Frontier’s owner, Ronald Wayne Bopp, was also held personally liable for Frontier’s activities.

The amount of the judgment was based on the amount of profits Frontier earned from the sales of houses that infringed Hewlett’s copyrights. The court also ordered the destruction of infringing materials in Frontier’s possession.

Hewlett is represented by attorney Louis Bonham of Osha Liang LLP.

Shane Hewlett, the principal of Hewlett Custom Home Design, said, “I am extremely gratified that the jury vindicated our position and acted to help protect our intellectual property and the designs we proudly provide to clients.”

Bonham added, “Misappropriation of copyrighted building designs is a serious problem in the homebuilding industry and has been for many years. I hope the jury’s message will be heard by those in the industry who do not take this issue seriously.”

This is the second seven-figure judgment in an architectural copyright case entered by a Houston federal court. Last fall, the court awarded $3.2 million to an Austin architecture firm, Kipp Flores Architects, in a similar case.

The case is “Hewlett Custom Home Design, Inc. v. Frontier Custom Builders, Inc. and Ronald W. Bopp,” Case 4:10-cv-04837, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.

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