McCleskey Attorneys Win on Behalf of Dan Wilson Homes
Attorneys from Lubbock’s McCleskey, Harriger, Brazill & Graf LLP recently won a major victory on behalf of local custom home builder Dan Wilson and Dan Wilson Homes Inc. in a case involving copyrighted custom home designs.
Dan Wilson Homes had hired Marshall Hunn and Hunn Designs to draft plans for several custom homes. Before the plans were finished, however, the draftsman who was working on those plans left Hunn Designs and opened his own drafting firm.
Mr. Wilson attempted on several occasions to complete the plans with Hunn Designs, but the company was non-responsive. Ultimately, Dan Wilson Homes hired Ben Lack – the former Hunn Designs draftsman who had worked on the plans when he was at Hunn – to finish the designs. That prompted Hunn to sue Mr. Lack and Dan Wilson Homes on claims of copyright infringement.
Dan Wilson Homes hired McCleskey partners Dustin R. Burrows and Marion (Rion) Sanford. The McCleskey legal team not only convinced Judge Sam R. Cummings of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Lubbock that Mr. Wilson, Dan Wilson Homes and Mr. Lack did not infringe the copyrighted house plans; they also successfully argued that Dan Wilson Homes and Mr. Lack are entitled to attorneys’ fees.
“Mr. Hunn claimed he owned the copyright to the plans even though the homeowners themselves had essentially designed their dream homes and hired Mr. Wilson to turn their visions into reality,” says Mr. Sanford. “Mr. Hunn’s job was simply to translate the homeowners’ layman drawings into architectural plans. The plans never belonged to Mr. Hunn, nor were they his creation.”
The ruling could provide some clarity to the architecture community. During the drafting process, Dan Wilson Homes and Hunn Designs worked closely with Hunn delivering multiple sets of preliminary plans, with no restrictions on use. Both parties intended for the plans to be used to further the construction process, Mr. Burrows says.
“The judge’s finding that Dan Wilson Homes had an implied license to finish the plans is noteworthy,” he says. “That’s been danced around before in the architectural world but I’ve never seen it decided so clearly.”
The case is Marshall Hunn v. Dan Wilson Homes Inc., et al., No. 5:12-CV-081-C.