On 22 January 2018, Justice Martino of the Supreme Court of Western Australia delivered his judgment in the case of Milankov Designs & Project Management Pty Ltd v Di Latte & Anor, a copyright infringement case in respect of house plans.
Mr and Mrs Di Latte engaged the plaintiff, Milankov Designs & Project Management Pty Ltd (Milankov), to design and prepare drawings for a home to be built at the Di Lattes’ property. The agreement provided that Milankov would prepare plans for stages of the design and build process – first, the development stage and, second, the construction drawing stage. The Di Lattes agreed to pay Milankov a percentage of the build cost, to be billed to the Di Lattes at various stages throughout the process.
After Milankov had prepared the stage one plans (including plans submitted to council for building licence approval) and the Di Lattes had paid several invoices issued by Milankov, the relationship between the parties broke down. The engagement contract was terminated by the Di Lattes, and Milankov promptly wrote to the Di Lattes putting them on notice that Milankov owned copyright in the plans it had created and that the Di Lattes were not entitled to reproduce the plans without its permission, including by building the house at their property.
Nonetheless, the Di Lattes proceeded to engage an architect to create plans including construction drawings by copying Milankov’s plans, and then to construct a house in accordance with the design.