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What Architects Should Know About IP Laws? UPDATED 2022

Written by:
Cristina Par
Max Vakhtbovych

If you are an architect, you might find yourself doing more drawing, planning, and designing than actually building. While it can be a bit discouraging, you still need to protect all those designs you are making, because they are your IP (intellectual property).

If you are an architect, then you need to know all about IP laws and how you can use them to defend your plans and ensure that the products of your mind remain yours.

The field of architecture can get very complicated with regards to ownership. Clients can sometimes try to pass off your designs as their own because they paid you for them.

If you collaborated with people to make your design then the question of ‘who created what’ can get very murky, and disputes over copyright can easily end up in court.

A knowledge of IP laws can help you defend your ideas and prove that you own what you own, so here’s what you need to know about the field of IP in 2022.

Register and Record Your Drawings

You can register both the actual building as well as the drawings that your firm has done with the U.S Copyright Office and it is very important to do both.

The building is the actual work, but that has a lot of names on it, while your drawings and the earlier iterations of the building solely belong to you and your firm, so make sure both are copyrighted.

Plus, according to copyright law, the copyright protects the buildings, the drawings, and the plans for the structure, but you need to copyright each one separately and having copyright for one doesn’t include copyright for the other two.

Additionally, don’t throw away any sketches or first drafts. Instead keep accurate and dated records of every step that went into the creation of your final design. The more evidence you can provide of early creation to a Heer Law lawyer, the better things will be if you have to go to court to defend your design. 

Keep Everything In Writing

When it comes to ownership of intellectual property, you want everything in writing. If you are working on a project with a team, working with a consultant, or entering into any type of partnership with your intellectual property on the line, then you need to have a contract that says who owns what.

Every party involved needs to figure out what ownership they have, it needs to be in writing, and it needs to be signed by everyone involved in the project.

This contract is going to not only help everyone be fully aware of the project, but it will also ensure that if things do go to court or get messy, the contract is going to be the first line of defense when it comes to ownership.

Look At Trademarks

Trademarks are an interesting facet of copyright law because if a building is tied to a commercial brand, then that is put under trademark protection. As long as the building is distinctive, associated with a brand, is used to endorse similar goods and services, and the use was non-editorial, then trademarks would be violated. 

Even if you are just starting out as an architect, you should be working with a lawyer and learning how copyright law works.

The sooner you put steps into place to defend your intellectual property, the sooner you can continue creating without worry. Even if you never need to set foot in a court of law to defend your IP rights, at least you’ll have protection and peace of mind.

By Liliana Alvarez

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