A Sunshine Coast builder provided a prospect – attracted by the aesthetics of its display home – with three similar design plan options to suit its potential customer’s Gympie homesite.

Coastlife Homes undertook “various investigations and preparations” and quoted $256k the finished product. The prospects did not, in the end, proceed.

Sometime later Coastlife learned that Bradley and Sharnell Sweeney had engaged another design & build team to produce a residence it contended was “substantially similar” to its own “original artistic” blueprints.

In defence to the ensuing lawsuit, the Sweeneys asserted they had no reasonable grounds to suspect they might be infringing any copyright and that in any event, Coastlife had extended to them an “implied licence” to use the plans they had received.

The contest came before the District Court at Maroochydore on an interim basis to determine whether a mediation should be ordered, before the parties were put to the expense of a trial.

Coastlife oppose the mediation on the basis of its expense – the mediator alone was to charge close to $10k – and because it wanted to obtain a court ruling that such conduct did indeed amount to an illegal infringement.

Judge Gary Long ruled in the Sweeneys’ favour that ordering that the parties “participate in and act reasonably and genuinely” in a mediation at the Queensland Law Society mediation rooms.

Coastlife was ordered to pay the legal costs of the argument. The substantial issues – whether a copyright infringement occurred; and if so what damages should be paid – will come before the court in the latter part of 2015 but only if it is not resolved at the mediation.

Look Design and Development Pty Ltd v Sweeney & Anor [2015] QDC 036 Long SC DCJ 25/02/2015

The parties did in fact settle after the ensuing mediation with the Sweeneys paying substantial damages to Coastlife and agreeing that it was indeed the “owner of the copyright subsisting in the project home known as the Bells 220”. Coastlife was authorised to publish the outcome although the quantum of damages remains confidential.


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