Lawsuit over WTC design is whittled down

Judge takes dim view of architect’s claims but lets three proceed

TRD New York /
Oct.October 14, 2019 08:00 AM
The architect claims the design, construction and marketing of the tower rips off the design of a tower he planned and modeled for his thesis

The architect claims the design, construction and marketing of the tower rips off the design of a tower he planned and modeled for his thesis

The copyright infringement suit over the design of One World Trade Center has survived an effort to kill it, but not by much.

A recently unveiled judge’s ruling preserved three claims of a case that stems from an architectural student’s design years before 9/11 attacks that led to the massive tower’s construction.

Georgia-based architect Jeehoon Park in 2017 sued four giants: architectural firm Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Tishman Construction and the tower’s developers, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and The Durst Organization.

Park claimed the design, construction and marketing of the tower ripped off a design he planned and modeled for his thesis at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1999. He said his thesis adviser was an associate partner at SOM and a second senior partner from the architectural firm also reviewed his work.

Manhattan Judge Richard Sullivan granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss many of Park’s claims but allowed three to move into discovery. Park’s lawyer, Daniel Kent, called it “a big step forward.”

“Judge Sullivan recognized the obvious and substantial similarity between Mr. Park’s design and the infringing building,” he wrote in an email. “The Court could have dismissed all of Mr. Park’s claims, but did not, and the remaining claims appear to have significant value.”

The judge, however, wrote in a September order that these claims survive “only by the skin of their teeth, owing principally to the highly deferential standards on a motion to dismiss.”

A spokesperson for the architectural firm said in a statement, “While it is positive that so much of the case was dismissed, SOM is still in the position of having to defend itself against these specious claims.”

The claims still in play relate to the defendants’ use of allegedly infringing images throughout construction, leasing and the selling of tickets to One World Observatory; and in the sale of souvenirs, such as models of the tower. Kent noted that Park could still appeal the dismissals at the end of the case.

The SOM spokesperson called it “inexplicable” that “Park filed his suit after Tower One was completed and a full decade after the building’s design was first unveiled.”

Durst and Port Authority did not respond to requests for comment.

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