Life is not fair. You prepare so hard for an exam, and some lazy kid just wants to copy off of it? You can’t let that happen but what if you pay an architect to design a wonderful house, and someone else just decides to copy it for free? Especially if they live in your neighborhood, can you live right in front of a clone of your entire house?
Not everyone has that kind of patience. When a family in Forest Hill, Toronto had their multi-million dollar house copied by their neighbors, they dragged them to the court. The neighbors Barbara Ann and Eric Kirshenblatt were renovating their house, and they liked the design of their neighbors Jason and Jodi Chapnick’s house so much that they made their house just like them. This decreased the value of the original home, so the Chapnicks sued their neighbors for $2.5 million in damages.
Chapnick claimed that the neighbors’ copied house looked extremely similar to theirs with the same details of stonework and even the same colors. They asked for $1.5 million in damages, $1 million in punitive damages, $20,000 in statutory copyright damages, and asked that the defendants must also change the look of their house.
According to the Jason and Jodi Chapnick, their house designed by an architect was, “one of the most well-known and admired houses in the Cedarvale and Forest Hill neighborhoods, in large part due to its uniqueness.” The Kirshenblatts had incorporated the same design into their own house just to increase the value of their house, and it affected the value of the original Chapnick’s house. The family claimed that not only the general look but even the tiny design elements were copied to a great detail. Both the parties provided evidence in photos and the defendants claimed that their design was inspired by Tudor cottages in real.
Jason Chapnick, the CEO of a Toronto-based investment firm, emphasized that the contractors of their house visited his home at the start of renovations and “indicated that they were building a house nearby and were copying aspects of his design.” He noticed the similarities only when the blue windows were installed. A notice was sent to Barbara Ann Kirshenblatt, so they cease infringement on their copyrighted design.
Once the renovation was complete, the couple sold the house for $3.5 million that they had originally purchased for around $1.5 million. When the Chapniks pressed with their lawsuit, the defendants could only provide online photos of houses and the case documents say, “The defendants do not know the addresses of the houses (found online) or the Castle from the James Bond movie.”
The lawsuit went on for about three years and both the families decided to make a settlement out of the court for conditions that have not been disclosed yet. Once the lawsuit ended, the couple commented that,
“A tremendous amount of skill, effort, time, judgment, care (and money) was spent across nearly seven years in terms of designing, architecting and building a unique and beautiful house. The settlement will allow us peace of mind to know that this should not happen again in the future.”
“Given the costs associated with the matter through trial, it was in the interests of all parties to reach an amicable settlement,” said the Kirshenblatts’ lawyer.
Incidents of this kind do not happen very often, but the Kirchenblatts learnt their lesson the hard way. You cannot copy a design for free just because you like it.