Intellectual Property + Architecture – ‘’Copyright is an automatic right and exists for the life of the creator plus 70 years.’’
This article was triggered by a recent conversation with a building owner, who was under the assumption that she owned the copyright to the architectural plans for her property and was surprised when I told her, by default, copyright is owned by the individual who created the work. In her case, this means I owned the copyright for the plans for the building. She was told this is the case even though the work had been contracted to be produced on her behalf.
While people my just think of their properties, offices, commercial buildings, shopping centres, cinemas etc as just as bricks and mortar, it is quite the contrary for the who created the design and own the buildings, they often appreciate the importance of the look, feel and character of the property.
In keeping with the thought and time that goes into their progression, buildings can be protected by a wide range of intellectual property rights from copyright to trade marks, passing off and design rights. Having an understanding of these rights can have a very big influence on the value of the building. Copyright exists in any original creative work. The barrier for originality is low. The work needs to show skill, judgment and effort on the part of the creator. Copyright can cover a wide range of elements of the creation of a building from drawings, sketches, diagrams, graphs, models, maps to written specs. It will also cover the finished building.
In conclusion, Intellectual property can be used to protect the distinctiveness and unique value of a building. While copyright will exist automatically, it is important to register trademarks which are separate rights that may overlap in practice and can be complementary dependent on the circumstances.