Copyright for design documentation

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What decisions were made?

Quite a topical question: is the project documentation related to copyright objects? In this article, we suggest that you consider specific court decisions that will help you understand this problem.

There is a case according to which the courts of two instances, as well as the High Court for Intellectual Property, denied the plaintiff in the matter of confirming the project documentation as an object of copyright. Why is that? The aforementioned courts ruled that in certain situations, project documentation will not act as a result of human creative labor, and therefore cannot be recognized as an object of copyright.

Авторское право на проектную документацию

What’s the point?

There is a certain company (we will not disclose the name, adhering to the principle of confidentiality), which enters into a deal with another company in order to design a water supply system.

Later, the executing company carried out all the necessary work. And on December 21, 2017, all design and working documentation, engineering documents and the results of the relevant experts were transferred to the customer in accordance with the contract. At the same time, the parties signed acts of completion only on April 2, 2018.

However, the customer did not wait long. On December 29, 2017, work has already begun, which was carried out on the basis of the above-mentioned project documentation.

In turn, the executing company sent a letter containing a claim regarding the work that began before the signing of the act. The firm demanded compensation – to pay a certain fine. No reply to this letter has been received.

Later, the society files a lawsuit in which it demands the recovery of a fine for copyright infringement. As a basis, they provided the fact that work on the project documentation had been completed prior to the signing of the acceptance certificate.

How did the courts decide this issue?

The court of first instance, after considering this claim, dismissed the plaintiff. Why is that?

This decision was justified by the fact that the project documentation, which is the object of the contract, does not contain certain architectural developments that can be considered an object of copyright. In addition, the engineering, constructive and technological solutions that are indicated in the documentation, according to the law, are not included in the list of objects of copyright, therefore they cannot be protected by the relevant regulations.

The court also reasoned its decision by the fact that this project documentation does not contain any results of creative work, which are enshrined in the norms of Ukrainian legislation in the field of intellectual property. Thus, the object of the contract (project documentation) cannot be subject to copyright.

The executing company did not stop at this, but filed a second claim with the court of appeal. However, the company was also refused here, and the decision of the first instance court was declared legal.

Further, the plaintiff appealed to the High Court for Intellectual Property. The company drew attention to the fact that this documentation contains unique developments that may well be considered an object under copyright protection.

In turn, the Supreme Court on Intellectual Property Issues issued the following decisions.

  1. The results of any intellectual activity are subject to intellectual property only if such a result was created through creative activity.
  2. The project documentation that was submitted by the executing company fits the definition of “technical documentation”. In order to accept it as an object of copyright, all the requirements specified by law were not provided.
  3. Such objects as project documentation in the right to be recognized as an object of copyright in the case when the process of their creation is not only technical and production activity, but also creative, including. That is, a given project can be recognized as an object of intellectual property if its creation is associated with creative work. However, this has not been proven by the plaintiff. In this situation, no relevant material was provided.
  4. In turn, the court of first instance was obliged to determine how this project documentation was created: with the help of creative or technical labor. After analyzing all the materials provided by the plaintiff, the court decided that the project documentation, executed by the executing company, was not executed with the help of creative activity. Therefore, it is not subject to copyright.

As a result, the High Court of Intellectual Property also rejected the plaintiff’s complaint, and the decisions of the previous two courts were recognized as legal.

In order to avoid any controversial or conflict situations, we advise you to seek help from highly qualified experts. We can build an effective and successful strategy for you to protect your own project documentation. Our experts will not only provide you with professional advice, but will also tell you about all the nuances and features of the assessment.

Our advantages are quality, timeliness, availability, openness and, of course, an individual approach to each client. Leave a request on our official website, and an expert will contact you shortly.

Interesting? Find out more! For example, what features the design copyright has.

Марина Ижевская.

Position: Lawyer in the field of intellectual property
Work experience: 8 years. Candidate of Legal Sciences.
Specialization: Deals with the protection and registration of intellectual property objects, writing claims and statements of claim. Registers objects in the customs register.

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