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When a federal judge ruled this month that a lawsuit brought by Thomas Shine, formerly a student at the Yale School of Architecture, against David M. Childs, a partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, could proceed, the architecture world was caught off guard.

It wasn't the accusation - that Mr. Childs appropriated one of Mr. Shine's student projects in a 2003 design for the Freedom Tower at ground zero - that seemed puzzling. The surprise was that Skidmore's motion for dismissal had been unsuccessful. For once, an accusation of architectural plagiarism had taken on a life beyond cocktail party chatter and snippy blogs.

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