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Gianacopoulos v. Glen Oak Country Club

December 12, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conaboy


Here we consider the three summary judgment motions pending before the Court: 1) Motion of Plaintiff, John Gianacopoulos, R.A., for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 44-1); 2) Defendant Mos Design Inc.'S Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 42-1); and 3) Defendants', Glen Oak Country Club's and Louis Shapiro's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 45). All motions have been briefed and are ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, all summary judgment motions (Docs. 42-1, 44-1, 45) will be denied except as to Count Two of Plaintiff's Complaint for Copyright Infringement against Defendants Glen Oak, Louis Shapiro and MOS Design, Inc. (Doc. 1). The Court will hold its decision on Count Two in abeyance pending a hearing on the issues raised in Plaintiff's copyright claim. Oral argument on this claim will be scheduled under separate Order.

I. Background*fn1

Plaintiff is an architect who was hired to design an addition/renovation to Glen Oak Country Club ("Glen Oak"). Plaintiff and Glen Oak entered into a contract on May 12, 2002, which identified five phases of the project: schematic design phase, design development phase, construction documents phase, bidding or negotiation phase and construction phase. Plaintiff basically claims Defendant Glen Oak violated the contract and copyright laws in several ways, including that the contract was not terminated and Glen Oak entered into a subsequent contract with MOS Designs, Inc. ("MOS") in August 2003 for similar services as those contracted for with Plaintiff. Regarding lack of termination of the contract, Plaintiff claims that in or about December of 2002, Glen Oak advised him that unresolved issues regarding the kitchen design required a temporary delay of the project and that Glen Oak would proceed with the project when they were resolved. Because Glen Oak failed to terminate the contract with him, Plaintiff asserts that Glen Oak is responsible to him for all fees for basic and additional services to which he was otherwise entitled under all five phases. Plaintiff also claims that the MOS design later submitted and used by Glen Oak is substantially similar to the designs he had submitted, violating infringement of his copyrighted works.

Defendant Glen Oak (Defendant Shapiro is included in Glen Oak submissions) admits to entering into a contract with Plaintiff and avers that he was paid for all services rendered and no other payments are due because the contract was terminated. Glen Oak also denies copyright infringement. Glen Oak contends that Plaintiff was instructed to submit only schematic designs, that was the only work he did on the project and he was paid for same. Glen Oak further maintains a decision was made to abandon the project in December 2002 because the Board determined there was insufficient support from the membership. Glen Oak avers that it later decided to hire a new architect for a more limited project - only renovations to the new club house and locker room - and it retained MOS Designs in July 2003. Glen Oak explains that the scope of the project was expanded after severe rainstorms flooded the locker room in September of 2003 - because of the resulting damage, the contract with MOS was revised to include a new locker room, kitchen expansion and lobby. Glen Oak avers that it never provided MOS with copies of Plaintiff's copyrighted drawings and never saw Plaintiff's copyrighted technical drawings. It also avers that Plaintiff's and MOS' designs are not substantially similar.

Defendant MOS denies any wrongdoing and asserts that some similarities are driven by site, structural and/or design requirements as well as board directives concerning the scope of the project and desired outcomes. MOS raises technical issues regarding what Plaintiff actually copyrighted and what documents are subject to copyright protection, concluding that no copyright infringement has occurred in this case. MOS also maintains the facts show that it did not interfere with the contract between Plaintiff and Glen Oak.

Because Plaintiff dropped Count Three and Count Five of the Complaint, the following three counts remain: Breach of Contract against Glen Oak (Count One); Copyright Infringement against all named defendants (Count Two); Tortious Interference with Contractual Relations against MOS Design (Count Four).

Glen Oak raises a counterclaim alleging that Plaintiff has no good faith basis for his claims and has brought this action for the purpose of annoyance and oppression which entitles Glen Oak to recover costs and attorneys fees.

Glen Oak also raises a cross-claim against MOS: in the event that Plaintiff should obtain judgment against Glen Oak, it would be entitled to indemnification from MOS.

MOS raises a counterclaim that its designs are not substantially similar to Plaintiff's allegedly copyrighted works, that Plaintiff's allegedly "copyrighted works" are not original works of authorship and thus are not properly copyrightable, and the action is brought for the purpose of annoyance and oppression. On this basis MOS claims it is entitled to recover its costs and attorneys fees.

II. Discussion

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997)(citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). The summary judgment standard does not change when the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Applemans v. City of Phila., 826 F.2d 214, 216 (3d Cir. 1987). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the law applicable to the case. Id. at 248; Levendos v. Stern Entertainment Inc., 860 F.2d 1227, 1233 (3d Cir. 1988). An issue of material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257. In determining whether a genuine issue of fact exists, a court must resolve all factual doubts and draw all reasonable ...

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