Sunday, July 6, 2008

Seeing Double

Twin towers? Oravec's design on the top, Trump's on the bottom.

The state of Florida has ruled against a Czech architect in his legal battle with Donald Trump. Paul Oravec sued for copyright infringement when Trump developed a tower in Miami that looked a lot like a design Oravec created 11 years ago. According to the Architect's Newspaper, Oravec "was 'shocked and dismayed' when in 2003 he discovered the Trump towers in a newspaper ad, looking like a copyrighted design he had circulated among Miami developers in 1997."

The court ruled the two structures were different enough that Oravec couldn't prove copyright infringement (if Oravec had won, he could have been awarded a percentage of the builder's assets, or something around $120 million.) So what does an architectural copyright get you? The answer may be: not much. One expert quoted in the article says that intellectual property rights in architecture are vastly misunderstood. While you cannot deny the similarity in the two designs—or the coincidence that Oravec's was circulated in the same city where Trump built his—the fact that one is reminiscent of the other is not enough. They must be identical.