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I hired a fairly well known architect located outside of Texas to design our home here in Houston about 10 years ago. We signed a standard AIA document. This month, I discovered that the architect has published our house plans in the current issue of Southern Living Magazine. Our identical house plans for which we paid over $60,000 are now available for purchase through this magazine for $3,000.

The architect is now telling me that he "owns the plans" per our AIA contract. However, I was under the impression that he "owned" the plans as protection for him so that we would not sell the plans or build multiple houses using those plans.

I had NO idea that he would take those plans and sell them down the road.

Does anyone know if I have legal recourse here? As a minimum, I would want the difference in what I paid for what I thought was a custom one of a kind set of plans and what he is charging for mass production of our plans.

Thank you!

Blaine Adams

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I hired a fairly well known architect located outside of Texas to design our home here in Houston about 10 years ago. We signed a standard AIA document. This month, I discovered that the architect has published our house plans in the current issue of Southern Living Magazine. Our identical house plans for which we paid over $60,000 are now available for purchase through this magazine for $3,000.

The architect is now telling me that he "owns the plans" per our AIA contract. However, I was under the impression that he "owned" the plans as protection for him so that we would not sell the plans or build multiple houses using those plans.

I had NO idea that he would take those plans and sell them down the road.

Does anyone know if I have legal recourse here? As a minimum, I would want the difference in what I paid for what I thought was a custom one of a kind set of plans and what he is charging for mass production of our plans.

Thank you!

Blaine Adams

Unless there is some statement in your contract that prevents him from selling the same plans to other customers, you're probably out of luck. It'd be difficult to prove that there are any damages incurred to you from his having sold your plans to others. In fact, you might consider yourself flattered.

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I hired a fairly well known architect located outside of Texas to design our home here in Houston about 10 years ago. We signed a standard AIA document. This month, I discovered that the architect has published our house plans in the current issue of Southern Living Magazine. Our identical house plans for which we paid over $60,000 are now available for purchase through this magazine for $3,000.

The architect is now telling me that he "owns the plans" per our AIA contract. However, I was under the impression that he "owned" the plans as protection for him so that we would not sell the plans or build multiple houses using those plans.

I had NO idea that he would take those plans and sell them down the road.

Does anyone know if I have legal recourse here? As a minimum, I would want the difference in what I paid for what I thought was a custom one of a kind set of plans and what he is charging for mass production of our plans.

Thank you!

Blaine Adams

I don't know if you have any recourse but that is BS if you ask me. $60K and he's selling it in a magazine now for $3K?

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Unless there is some statement in your contract that prevents him from selling the same plans to other customers, you're probably out of luck. It'd be difficult to prove that there are any damages incurred to you from his having sold your plans to others. In fact, you might consider yourself flattered.

I'd have to agree with Niche here. sounds like vague language will hurt your cause.

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It sounds like he waited the proper 10 years for copyright infringement details. Now even you could prbably turn around and sell the plans. I would read the AIA agreement one more time, just to see what the stipulations were on the contract.

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Who cares if there is another house like yours somewhere in the vast land that is the USA. Really?

You missed the point completely. They don't care that other houses will look like theirs somewhere else in America. They care because they paid $57,000 dollars more than these other homeowners for the same plans.

If anything I think you might have been paying for exclusivity. You've had your house for 10 years before anyone else could. Also, alot changes in 10 years. Whoever submitted the ad for the plans probably has never even heard of you or your house. They were probably not even employed by this firm at the time. Its also highly unlikely that the Architect that worked on your home was had direct oversight into this ad being placed.

I'm not saying its right, but it is the business world.

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Well, I appreciate the feedback to my initial posting.

It is not so much that I care "if there is another house like mine somewhere in the vast land that is the USA", I'm ticked because we paid what I consider to be a good deal of money for what we thought was a one of a kind home that is now available to everyone for a drop in the bucket compared to what we paid.

And, the plans were published in Southern Living by the architect we hired, Ken Tate of Madisonville, La. (www.kentatearchitect.com) He did have direct oversight and was solely responsible for the publication of these plans for purchase.

I guess my question is, then what did I pay $60,000 for? Why did he charge me $60,000 if he is selling the plan now for $3,000? Is it worth $60,000 or $3,000???

I do think it is BS to pay $60,000 for plans and then have the architect turn around and sell them for $3,000 to a magazine.

And, yes, the AIA contract unfortunately may allow the architect to do that but it is bad business in my opinion and I would like to sue the SOB.

So, I would like to let everyone who is about to sign an AIA contract with an architect - BE AWARE of what you are signing. Have an attorney look at it before you sign it so that your architect doesn't sell you down the river!

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Ummm, eadams, I know one way you might have some recourse. Write a letter to the editor of the magazine that published it, or give the editor a call, and tell them your story, they might be interested to publish the flipside of the whole thing. Just a thought. You can tell them how much you paid, and how you understood that you were going to have a "one off" house.

Edited by TJones
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Seems to me this would ordinarily be classified as a "work for hire" and the copyright would be retained by whoever hired the architect to do the plans, unless the contract states otherwise...or unless standard copyright law doesn't apply to architectural plans.

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or unless standard copyright law doesn't apply to architectural plans.

architectural copyrights have improved leaps and bounds in the last couple decades, but it is probably still a matter of contract language in this case

fwiw, here's an article about owner v. architect:

http://library.findlaw.com/2004/Mar/29/133362.html

and title 17:

http://www.access.gpo.gov/uscode/title17/title17.html

and section 120:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/usc...20----000-.html

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Well, I appreciate the feedback to my initial posting.

It is not so much that I care "if there is another house like mine somewhere in the vast land that is the USA", I'm ticked because we paid what I consider to be a good deal of money for what we thought was a one of a kind home that is now available to everyone for a drop in the bucket compared to what we paid.

And, the plans were published in Southern Living by the architect we hired, Ken Tate of Madisonville, La. (www.kentatearchitect.com) He did have direct oversight and was solely responsible for the publication of these plans for purchase.

I guess my question is, then what did I pay $60,000 for? Why did he charge me $60,000 if he is selling the plan now for $3,000? Is it worth $60,000 or $3,000???

I do think it is BS to pay $60,000 for plans and then have the architect turn around and sell them for $3,000 to a magazine.

And, yes, the AIA contract unfortunately may allow the architect to do that but it is bad business in my opinion and I would like to sue the SOB.

So, I would like to let everyone who is about to sign an AIA contract with an architect - BE AWARE of what you are signing. Have an attorney look at it before you sign it so that your architect doesn't sell you down the river!

I feel for you. You might not have direct recourse towards him. Since it is work for hire, but the contract will dictate how much so.

I would get back at him by contacting several architecture magazines and maybe some television stations where they do stories about "buyer beware" situation. They might be interested in doing a story. I've had luck having some articles published about my business by solely writing the author of the article by email.

It is BAD business practice. I can imagine that your situation is not the first he has done that to.

Good luck.

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I feel for you. You might not have direct recourse towards him. Since it is work for hire, but the contract will dictate how much so.

I would get back at him by contacting several architecture magazines and maybe some television stations where they do stories about "buyer beware" situation. They might be interested in doing a story. I've had luck having some articles published about my business by solely writing the author of the article by email.

It is BAD business practice. I can imagine that your situation is not the first he has done that to.

Good luck.

Copyright laws say that if you hire and architect or Certified Designer they will own the right to the plans unless you have it down in writting that the copyrights will belong to the owner thats the law. If someone paid be 60k for a project and then I sell it to someone else for 3K I dont really value my work.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Copyright laws say that if you hire and architect or Certified Designer they will own the right to the plans unless you have it down in writting that the copyrights will belong to the owner thats the law. If someone paid be 60k for a project and then I sell it to someone else for 3K I dont really value my work.

Well, i think the architect knew that this magazine could get him alot of business, thus selling only $3,000 per person/household for readers of this magazine. At least i think that is what the original poster meant by $3,000. The architect is getting his name out. Just like an ad, so depending on how popular this magazine is, he could make $60k in no time.

Edited by icanluv2
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