Architectural Designs and Copyright Protection
Architects put in an enormous amount of professional effort and skill into designing projects. An innovative design is a form of intellectual property. If you are an architect, you may be wondering:
How can I protect my creative projects?
The short answer is through copyright law.
In the United States, architectural designs and other technical drawings may be entitled to copyright protection. Here, our Boca Raton copyright registration lawyers explain the key things design professionals should know about architectural works and intellectual property law.
Federal Copyright Law: Protection for Architectural Designs
There was a time when architectural designs and technical drawing were excluded from protections under U.S. copyright law. However, things have changed. In 1990, federal legislators reformed the law to ensure clear, legally enforceable protection for design professionals. The Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act (AWCPA) revised American copyright law to include protection for architectural workers and other similar technical drawings. The protections are considerable: Design professionals and architectural firms can get protection for plans, blueprints, and the design of the actual physical structure.
At the same time, it is important to understand the limits of copyright protection. First, design professionals cannot copyright an ‘idea’—they can only copyright the original expression of that idea. Additionally, some design elements are so common that they are by definition not original or distinctive enough to warrant copyright protection. You could not get protection for the concept of a “colonial house”—as it is a general idea that is already a common style. However, there may be a specific, original element of the design that qualifies for protection.
A Substantially Similar Design May Violate Copyright
A valid copyright protects the original expression of a unique and innovative content. That is as true in blueprints as it is in a written novel. Professionals cannot violate another party’s copyright. To bring a successful copyright infringement claim, an architect does not need to prove actual copying; instead, they need to establish that another design is substantially similar to a copyright protected design. Ignorance is not a surefire legal defense in a copyright infringement claim.
Protect and Enhance Your Rights By Registering for Copyright Protection
Under U.S. law, copyright protection is automatic. If you create an innovative work—including a technical drawing—which is eligible for copyright protection, that protection will apply immediately. However,
before you can file a lawsuit to stop copyright infringement, you must have a copyright registration
, Because it can take many months to obtain a copyright registration, it is prudent to apply for a copyright registration before you need to have it to enforce your copyright rights. If you need to stop an infringer and do not have a copyright registration, you can apply for expedited processing of your copyright application. You should note there is an additional significant processing fee which must be paid to the United States Copyright Office if you want the copyright application processed on an expedited basis. There are also other benefits to having a copyright registration, including the ability to recover statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.
Contact Our South Florida Copyright Lawyers for Help
At Perkins Law, our Florida intellectual property lawyers are skilled, solutions-focused advocates for clients. If you have questions about architectural designs and copyright protection, we are available to help. To arrange a confidential consultation, please contact our legal team today. From our office in Boca Raton, we offer nationwide representation in copyright law.