The Real Deal New York

NYC furniture designer sues Core over “Selling New York” segment

March 22, 2011 11:31AM
By Adam Pincus

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Clockwise, from top left: an alleged digital replica of Heptagon Creations’ cocoon chair in an episode of HGTV’s “Selling New York,” 240 Park Avenue South, Heptagon Creations’ André Joyau, Core’s Shaun Osher and the original cocoon chair by Joyau

A Brooklyn-based designer of high-end furniture is accusing Shaun Osher’s Core of using digital recreations of its signature tables and chairs without permission in order to sell a $5.89 million apartment that was featured on the HGTV program “Selling New York” in January.

Heptagon Creations, better known in the industry by its founder’s name André Joyau, has sued Core and the architectural firm PleskowRael, claiming copyright infringement, unfair competition and other complaints, stemming from the use of digital images in the marketing materials for the apartment at 240 Park Avenue South.

The furniture designer is seeking the $353,400 commission paid to Osher for the purchase of penthouse unit 15A, which sold Sept. 8, 2010 for $5.89 million, as well as a halt to any further infringement of its designs.

To bolster its case, the Heptagon complaint filed last Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan, quotes a Core broker on “Selling New York” saying, “The design presentation allowed us to show the potential of this property so my buyer, who was on the fence, sealed the deal.”

The suit claims nine pieces of furniture including a distinctive cocoon chair (see photo) were recreated in digital marketing materials.

The sophistication of digital technology has made it far easier to infringe on copyrights and trademarks, said intellectual property attorney Jenifer Paine, a senior counsel at law firm Proskauer Rose, who was not involved in the case. But she noted as well that it is difficult to copyright furniture designs.

The use of virtual imaging to sell real estate is becoming more popular as well, making it easier for potential buyers to imagine what the raw space will look like furnished.

Dennis Miller, a co-CEO of Texas-based Virtual Staging Solutions, which sells to agents and property owners digitally enhanced images which convert empty spaces into virtually staged scenes, said such staging makes a difference to buyers. He was not involved in the litigation.

“Not everyone is a designer and not everyone can walk into a room and say, ‘What can I do here?’” he said. “It stimulates the imagination.”

The complaint says the dispute started after PleskowRael on behalf of Core, approached Heptagon in August to see if the design firm would lend Core a collection of Andre Joyau furniture as staging elements for an apartment that would be featured in “Selling New York.” As a condition, the designer required Core to buy an insurance policy, but Core refused, and so the furniture was never lent.

Instead, the complaint alleges that without permission, digital images of the furniture were placed in a virtual sales presentation, which was featured in an edition of the program that first aired Jan. 13. The program was re-aired again in January and twice in February.

Core, citing its policy not to discuss legal proceedings, declined to comment. An attorney for Heptagon declined to comment, and PleskowRael did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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