Architectural designs fall under the class of works of art, whether on a complete building or on paper as building plans. Therefore, they are registrable for copyright protection in most jurisdictions.
While not many architectural design lawsuits get filed, it is still an important consideration for architectural designers who want to preserve their reputation. If you are considering registering your design trademarks but are unsure of what they entail, this guide is worth reading.
Copyright is a form of legal protection that offers creators of original works of art exclusive rights to profit from them. For a piece of work to qualify for copyright protection, it must be original and fixed in a tangible form. Work can be said to be fixed if it is recorded, written down, drawn, created in digital format, or produced in some way.
Upon registration, copyrights remain enforceable for the creator's lifetime and some years after the creator's death. In Canada, they remain enforceable for 50 years after the copyright owner's death.
Copyrights, like other IP protections, are limited by geographical boundaries. So, if you have registered your designs for protection in Canada, your rights are only enforceable in Canada. If you hope to enjoy copyright protection for your architectural designs in other countries, you must register your copyrights following the applicable laws for those countries.
The best approach to securing protection in many countries is registering your designs with international copyright agencies such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a subsidiary of the United Nations.
Typically, an architect owns the copyrights to their architectural designs. However, there are circumstances where another party can own copyrights. For example, an architectural company that employs architects to create architectural designs will own the rights to the plans their employers create.
If the designers work on a contractual basis, they will keep the rights to their work. However, ownership of copyrights may be determined by the contract agreement. If the terms of the agreement include the transfer of rights, the hiring entity will have ownership of the copyrights.
Different countries have different governmental agencies with a constitutional mandate to register IPs. In Canada, IP registration is handled by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
The process starts by submitting an application for registration and paying the applicable fees.
Upon approval, you receive a certificate of registration which acts as proof of ownership. It is important to understand that copyright protections also apply by default. So, you still own copyrights to your designs even if you do not register them, but having certification makes enforcement a lot easier.
Applicable fees for intellectual property registration vary based on the type of intellectual property. When registering your designs for copyright protection through CIPO's online portal, you will pay 50 CAD and 65 CAD for other options. Other applicable official fees include license assignment fees and clerical error correction fees, among other fees outlined on CIPO's website.
Copyright registration fees vary significantly from patent, industrial designs, and trademark fees in Canada, just as the IP protections offer different protections. The best way to determine the actual cost of registering individual IP rights is by referring to the CIPO website or consulting a lawyer.
Copyright and architectural designs go hand in hand. If you have always looked at copyright as a complicated topic, you probably can see that it is not all that complicated after reading this guide.
However, this guide is not a substitute for getting professional legal help. So if you are in the process of registering your designs or are aware of an infringement, it will be best to work with a lawyer.