Architectural engineers astonish us with their innovative skills by creating amazing designs. They not only create magnificent exterior/ interior designs but also develop buildings which could stand irrespective of wind, changing weather conditions, time. These architectural buildings become the nation’s valuable economic asset and are very easy to imitate which in turn reduce the value of the design. As these creations become the Intellectual Property of the Designer, one has to protect these designs.
The buildings could be protected in two ways- Utility or Design. As specified in my earlier article, Utility Patents protect the functionality of the building, while Design patents protect the ornamental features of the building.
A Design Patent helps in protecting the ornamental features of the building and also helps the designer to avoid imitation by others. One among them to mention is The Statue of Liberty. The construction of the Statue of Liberty was proposed originally by Édouard René de Laboulaye (Political activist) and designed by a French Sculptor, Auguste Bartholdi. The patent was filed three years after Auguste was authorized for designing it and was granted patent (USD11023 S) on February 18, 1879, with the title- Liberty Enlightening the World. Another example that we could consider for Design Patents is the Twisted High-Rise building (US 06/900,346)
In contrast to Design Patents, the Utility patent protects the functionality of an object. In reference to Utility patents of buildings, one should consider every aspect of the architectural design, for instance, window, roof, foundations, energy management system, framing systems, room layouts, etc. For example, on February 18, 1975 King James R was granted a Utility Patent (US 3866363 A) that protects a wind energy dissipating building. This is an arrangement for dissipating high energy winds that flow along the sides and base of the skyscrapers. Another example for the Utility patent of buildings is the Revolving roof for an indoor/outdoor stadium which is located in Qatar. It was invented/ designed by Lee Hosking & Michael Edward Beaven and granted Patent (US 12/955,506) on May 31, 2012.
Many of you might actually wonder why buildings need patent, as copyright itself can protect them. The standards for patent infringement are different from the standards for copyright infringement. Copyright infringement requires the infringer to have access to the protected work, whereas, Patent infringement requires the accused to only incorporate the design elements protected by the patent, irrespective of whether the infringer has access or not.
However, Copyright cannot protect the functional aspects of the building. The best example to consider is, The Eiffel Tower. It is the major tourist site and also the most visited monument with 7 million people every day. It has been protected by Copyright, but is now in the Public domain as the copyright validity has expired. Hence, this allows anyone to take photograph of the tower. However, the lighting design of the tower at night has been protected under Copyright recently. According to this, taking photographs of the tower in the day is allowed but not at night. Furthermore, usage of these images requires a prior permission from La Société d’exploitation de la tour Eiffel (company operating the Eiffel Tower [SETE]). Infringing penalities can be heavy when the infringement of the images has high revenue and also high public exposure. Yet, one does not get into trouble if these images are used for personal use.
Nevertheless, Architects create new designs, both aesthetic and functional, irrespective of the culture. Hence, it is important for the architecture to be protected by the Intellectual Property Rights.