Childs asks for dismissal of tower suit

Freedom Tower designer David Childs ’63 ARC ’67 and his architectural firm have requested that the court dismiss all copyright charges filed against Childs by Thomas Shine ARC ’00.

In court documents filed late last week, Childs and his firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, argue that the case surrounding the tower, which will be built in the space left by the World Trade Center buildings, should be dismissed because Shine’s designs — “Shine 99″ and “Olympic Tower” — are not detailed enough to receive copyright protection. The defendant also argues that Shine cannot legally receive protection for a design that he claims contains a combination of elements from his two works.

Even if Shine does have a copyright for his works, any similarities between his designs and the tower comprise unoriginal or standard elements, which are not protected under copyright law, Childs and his firm said in a motion filed last Friday in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York.

Shine’s attorney, Andrew Baum, said he will respond to the request for dismissal by mid-April, but he would not comment on the specifics of the response.

“We’re working on a response and we’re going to make one,” Baum said. “Obviously I don’t think the case should be dismissed … we will make a vigorous and substantial response to this motion.”

Childs and his attorneys could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In documents presented to the courts, Childs included statements from architects Richard Meier and John Durschinger, who are both connected to Childs’ architectural firm, supporting his claim that the case should be dismissed. Meier is the youngest recipient of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, widely considered architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, and has designed a number of prominent works, including The Getty Center in Los Angeles. In his affidavit, Meier said there is little original expression in Shine’s “Olympic Tower.”

But Shine said he thought the testimony of a high profile expert like Meier demonstrated that Childs is taking his complaint seriously.

It is fairly common for defendants to request that the case be dismissed without a trial, said Robert Brauneis, the co-director of George Washington Law School’s Dean Dinwoodey Center for Intellectual Property Studies, but these requests are not granted often in copyright cases.

“Not many judges would say, ‘I’m not even going to give this issue to the jury, because no reasonable jury could find it’s substantially similar,'” Brauneis said.

Still, it is possible that the judge will dismiss the case based on Childs’ claims that Shine does not have a valid copyright, Brauneis said.

After Shine responds by mid-April, Childs has until April 22 to respond to Shine. A judge will then decide whether to dismiss the case, a process that usually takes about two months, Baum said.

Lawyers for David Childs ’63 ARC ’67, the designer of the Freedom Tower, moved this week to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the design was stolen from Thomas Shine ARC ’00.
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Lawyers for David Childs ’63 ARC ’67, the designer of the Freedom Tower, moved this week to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the design was stolen from Thomas Shine ARC ’00.

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