Donis has filed an intellectual property lawsuit in the US against Dubai Municipality, claiming that he never signed an agreement with the Municipality to use the design for the project and that it was built without his involvement.
Dubai Municipality first held an international design competition for the project in 2008, which was sponsored by elevator manufacturing company ThyssenKrupp AG.
The brief was to “design a new emblematic structure for Za’abeel Park in the center of Dubai to promote the new face of Dubai”, according to Donis.
“Our design, the Dubai Frame project, won the competition in 2009. As per the competition regulations – ‘the author of the preliminary design placed first will keep his copyright and his work may only be used by the Dubai Municipality when he has signed the corresponding contract for drafting the corresponding design with the former’”, the architect said.
He also provided Gulf Business with what he alleges is a copy of the competition agreement, which also states that subject to approvals, Dubai Municipality may “engage the winner to prepare the final design and documentation of the winning proposal”.
“We never granted the Dubai Municipality permission to use our design and never signed an agreement with them, even though the competition rules required both before the Dubai Municipality could use the design. The Dubai Municipality proceeded to build the project without our involvement, after we delivered drawings, images, structural analysis, and model of the project,” alleged Donis.
“Having sent cease-and-desist letters and exhausted all avenues of communication with the Dubai Municipality and ThyssenKrupp AG, we decided to bring a copyright infringement case,” he added.
The Dubai Frame is presently being clad in gold – an element that was not part of the design submitted by Donis.
But he claims that the project being built “copies” the unique elements of his design.
“Like our design, it is a large frame consisting of two towers connected by a bridge observatory at the top of the towers. The dimensions and proportions of the Dubai Frame are substantially the same as the dimensions and proportions in our design,” he said.
Donis confirmed that the Dubai Municipality did propose a contract to him on January 21, 2013.
“The contract limited our role to that of an “advisor”, required us to give away our intellectual property in the project and forbade us from ever promoting our practice through the Dubai Frame Project. We never signed this blatantly unfair contract,” he said.
The Dubai Municipality referred Gulf Business to the Dubai Media Office for any queries related to the Dubai Frame. We are still awaiting a response from Dubai Media Office.
Donis added: “We trust the highest authorities of Dubai and the UAE will properly solve this unprecedented situation in the history of UNESCO-UIA regulated architectural competitions.”