Australia: Porter Davis Homes v Dennis Family Homes

Last Updated: 5 April 2011
Article by Jeremy Hyman

Following its wins in recent years against Metricon Homes and Carlisle Homes, Porter Davis Homes has now had a third copyright victory in respect of another competitor found to have copied its highly successful Seattle and Memphis house designs, this time against Dennis Family Homes.

Porter Davis prides itself on its innovative designs and has been vindicated in its decision to protect its rights by issuing proceedings against competitors for copyright infringement.This decision comes after a legal battle that was started by Porter Davis Homes almost six years ago and has now seen three of Melbourne's top builders being held to have copied and infringed Porter Davis Homes' house designs.

Whilst Porter Davis Homes does not know the precise number of houses which have been built by its competitors who have been found to have copied its Seattle and Memphis house designs, it believes the total number is in the thousands.

In 2005, Porter Davis Homes issued proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Dennis Family Homes alleging that it had infringed the copyright in Porter Davis' original house design known as the Seattle and its later generation version of the design, the Memphis.

On 18 March 2011 Justice Dodds-Streeton of the Federal Court of Australia delivered her Judgment in the proceeding.

Porter Davis' original design was found to have been copied by Dennis Family Homes in 7 of its designs marketed and sold extensively by the builder. The Dennis Family Homes houses and plans known as the Grange 291, Grange 322, Thornton 310, Esperance, Flinders 270, Flinders 290 and Flinders 310 were found to have infringed copyright in the Porter Davis houses and plans by copying the "alfresco quadrant" feature of those designs.

Justice Dodds-Streeton found that the "alfresco quadrant" in the Porter Davis Homes designs was "both striking and distinctive" and agreed with the findings in the cases against Metricon Homes and Carlisle Homes that the "alfresco quadrant" was a substantial part of the Porter Davis Homes' designs and deserving of copyright protection.

The Judge found that there was no evidence of the "alfresco quadrant" feature being present in any houses or plans that pre-dated the Seattle – "the [Seattle's] particular and highly effective combination of mutually related spaces and indoor-outdoor connection differed materially from those of the various houses which included an alfresco prior to the Seattle".

The judge found that the key Dennis Family Homes witnesses, who denied reference to or copying the Porter Davis Homes' design and asserted an alternative account of creation of the designs, were evasive, unreliable and defensive and rejected their evidence.

This follows on from the earlier findings made against Metricon Homes and Carlisle Homes. Metricon Homes' copying of the Seattle design, and the conduct of those involved, was found by the Court to have been "deliberate" and "conscious" and the Court found that Metricon had "a corporate culture which accepted the copying of competitors' designs". In the Carlisle Homes case, the directors of Carlisle Homes were found by the Court to have given "consciously untrue evidence" and "colluded in doing so". Carlisle Homes was found to have deliberately copied the alfresco quadrant because it was commercially successful, and to have invented a false account of creation of their house design.

Tony Watson, partner of Middletons who acted for Porter Davis, said "this case yet again confirms that copyright infringement proceedings focus on how a person created their design and whether they had reference to another's work and whether in creating their design they have reproduced a substantial part of the other person's work".

"Sometimes proceedings in Australian Courts take a long time and can be expensive, however often the true story of the creation of a copyright work is not revealed until all the documents have been carefully scrutinised and the witnesses have been extensively cross examined at trial and the full history has been pieced together."

"We are very pleased for Porter Davis as it has yet again defended the originality of its innovative designs and sent a further warning to competitors not to copy its original designs or action will be taken."

Anthony Roberts, Managing Director of Porter Davis, said that Porter Davis was very pleased with the decision.

Mr Roberts said that "this decision, which comes after a long and expensive battle that started almost six years ago, reinforces that Porter Davis will take action to protect its original designs.

"Porter Davis invests a lot of money and time into developing new and innovative designs to seek to appeal to the discerning buyer and it also will invest resources in seeking to protect those designs."

This decision, like the previous decisions in the cases against Metricon Homes and Carlisle Homes, is especially relevant to architects, designers, draftsmen, builders and others in the building industry. The industry should remain aware of the legal consequences of having had reference to other builder's plans and designs.

Porter Davis Homes has also claimed that four additional Dennis Family Homes' designs (being the Flinders 301, Flinders 331, Flinders 361 and Lancaster 281) infringe copyright in the Seattle design. These houses continue to be offered for sale by Dennis Family Homes.

These claims, as well as the damages to which Porter Davis is entitled, will now be determined by the Court.

Porter Davis Homes will seek from Dennis Family Homes either an award of damages or an account of profits (being the profits it has earned as a result of each individual house it has built and sold according to the seven Dennis Family Homes designs), as well as its costs and interest.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.