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WilliamsMcCarthy LLP Home Builder Client Prevails in Federal Copyright Suit

On June 24, 2019, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana issued a summary judgment ruling in favor of WilliamsMcCarthy LLP client Heller Homes, a large, well-known home builder in northeast Indiana. The suit was originally filed against Heller Homes in 2016 by an Omaha, Nebraska-based home plan company known as Design Basics, LLC. The suit accused Heller Homes of copyright infringement for allegedly using plaintiff’s copyrighted home plans to advertise and build homes in various subdivisions in northeast Indiana.  Heller Homes denied using Design Basics’ home plans and contended that they independently developed their own home plans.

After extensive litigation over three years, Heller Homes filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss the entire suit against it.  In the motion, and with the assistance of professor Robert Greenstreet, the Dean of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture, WilliamsMcCarthy LLP demonstrated that Heller Homes’ plans were too dissimilar to plaintiff’s plans to support a claim of infringement. The district court agreed, and on June 24, 2019 the Honorable Judge Brady issued a 38-page Memorandum Opinion and Order granting summary judgment to Heller Homes on all of the home plans at issue. In its Order, the court also invited Heller Homes as the prevailing party to file a claim for attorney’s fees and expenses, since the Copyright Act allows the district court to award litigation fees to the prevailing party. Heller Homes filed a fee claim on July 24, 2019 and is awaiting the district court’s ruling on that claim.

Heller Homes was represented in the lawsuit by WilliamsMcCarthy LLP litigation partners Marc C. Gravino and Joel M. Huotari.  Attorneys Gravino and Huotari have had the honor of representing approximately 30 home builders over the past decade in similar copyright suits filed by Design Basics across the Midwest, including in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio.

The Memorandum Opinion and Order granting summary judgment can be read here: USDC IN/ND case 1:16-cv-00175-HAB-SLC

Marc Gravino can be contacted at mgravino@wilmac.com and Joel Huotari can be contacted at jhuotari@wilmac.com.

Photo of Marc Gravino
Marc Gravino
Joel Huotari