Architect Accused of Copying Mansion Design

TUESDAY, JULY 19, 2016

A federal lawsuit accuses a New Jersey architecture firm and New York couple of accessing copyrighted drawings of a New York mansion and planning a replica close by—without the original homeowners’ permission.

Rivka and Seth Fortgang, of Lawrence, have accused Pereiras Architects Ubiquitous (PAU) and property owners Daniella and Ari Schwartz of copying the Fortgangs’ dream house, in nearby Cedarhurst, according to the copyright infringement case, filed in Long Island federal court in early July.

Copying a Unique Home

The Fortgangs constructed their 4,400-square-foot custom house 11 years ago in the area known as “Five Towns.” Designed by Rivka, an interior and exterior designer, the mansion features “a visually distinctive and unique exterior stucco facade,” according to the complaint.

The original architectural drawings for the home were copyrighted in 2005, the suit says.

The suit alleges that the Schwartzes and PAU are currently designing and constructing a residence that infringes upon that copyright.

In August 2015, the firm and the Schwartzes allegedly accessed the Fortgang residence architectural drawings via records filed with the Village of Lawrence Building Department, the suit claims. Permission to access or copy, reproduce, or distribute derivative works of Fortgang residence was never granted, the complaint alleges.

However, the suit contends project renderings of the Schwartz home indicate it will be “substantially similar” to the Fortgang home. The project is still in the early stages of construction and its facade is not yet complete, the suit claims.

Exchange Before Filing

Before heading to court, the Fortgangs, through their attorney, sent a cease-and-desist letter.

“There is no doubt that you have accessed and intentionally copied the plans of the Fortgang residence intending to create a replica of our clients’ home and distinctive exterior,” Attorney Steven Stern wrote in the letter dated June 7.

The Schwartzes and PAU responded, through their attorney, stating "our clients have agreed to temporarily postpone construction of the present design of the so-called ‘Villa residence’ pending certain changes and amendments to its exterior facade elements,” the complaint notes.

However, the color renderings provided at the end of June by the Schwartzes indicated “intent to continue with infringing behavior,” the suit says. Thus, the suit was filed.

Reputation Suffers

Rivka, who works as a designer in the Five Towns area, said her business and reputation has suffered in light of the controversy.

The couple seeks an injunction and unspecified damages in the copyright infringement suit.

PAU did not immediately respond to a D+D News request for comment.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Color + Design; Construction; Documentation; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; North America; Residential

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