A Maryland-based company is alleging that dorm designs at a local college violated the company's copyrights.
The architectural firm that designed the original residence halls at University of South Carolina Beaufort's Hilton Head Gateway campus filed a lawsuit earlier this month in U.S. District Court, alleging the school's administrative body and a local construction company violated its copyrights on the building designs when they built newer dorms in a similar style.
Design Collective Inc. of Baltimore filed suit Aug. 6 in U.S. District Court in Beaufort against the Beaufort-Jasper Higher Education Commission and Fraser Construction.
The lawsuit says DCI never gave the commission or Fraser Construction a license to reuse their architectural plans for future student housing.
DCI was not compensated for the use of its designs, the lawsuit said.
DCI created site plans and designed the four residence halls -- the Beaufort Building, the Colleton Building, the Hampton Building and the Jasper Building -- in 2004. One design was used for the Beaufort and Jasper buildings, the other for the Hampton and Colleton buildings, the lawsuit said.
DCI also designed site plans for future student housing construction projects and was invited back to bid on the construction and design of the second phase in 2010. The company was outbid by Fraser Construction, the lawsuit said.
Fraser and two subsidiaries listed as defendants -- Fraser Construction Services, LLC and Fraser Construction Co., LLC -- built four more residence halls that were nearly identical to the original four designed by DCI, the suit alleges.
The four residence halls -- the May River Building, the Okatee River Building, the Combahee River Building and the Chechessee River Building -- all shared "substantially similar" design elements, using the same color brick on the building's first-floor exterior and the same color Hardi plank boards on the second- and third-floor exteriors, the suit said.
Charleston attorney Jason Scott Luck, who is representing DCI, said the company didn't know if the designs had been replicated anywhere else. He declined to comment on the lawsuit further, citing a policy not to comment on pending litigation.
USCB spokeswoman Lynn McGee said the university had not yet been served the lawsuit and could not comment.
The copyright registrations weren't filed until after the Beaufort-Jasper Higher Education Commission filed a lawsuit in May 2013 against DCI, Birmingham, Ala.-based Capstone Development Corp., which built the original four residence halls, and several subcontractors involved in the project.
The commission's lawsuit alleged that the companies poorly designed and constructed the buildings, leading to water damage that could eventually cause structural failure and the degradation of building materials, according to the lawsuit filed in Beaufort County civil court. It eventually grew to include nearly a dozen companies involved in the construction of the building and a third-party claim filed by DCI against the structural engineer on the project for breach of warranty.
Motions to dismiss most of those claims with prejudice were made in May, according to court records, and it appears none of the local lawsuits are still active.
The federal lawsuit alleges two counts of copyright infringement by Fraser Construction and two counts of contributory copyright infringement by the commission -- one each on the architectural works and technical drawings for the building designs.
The lawsuit seeks to block the two organizations from using the designs or any derivative of them in future projects. It seeks actual damages from the copyright infringement and profits attributable to the copyright infringement, such as rent and tuition. It also asks for an accounting of all revenue and profits from the use of the copyrighted material and for those profits to be awarded to DCI.
Attempts to reach attorneys for Fraser Construction for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.
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