Professional Practice - Who has the rights to the CAD files?

Oct 5 '12 5 Last Comment
Oct 5, 12 9:50 pm

An architect is hired by the builder, does 6 houses, permit & construction drawings, architect is fired by the builder. Who owns the legal right to the raw CAD files that created these houses?  Architect or Builder. Architect offered only pdf's at the termination of the relationship. Thanks in advance for your comments.


Oct 6, 12 12:46 am

What does the contract say?

Oct 6, 12 8:42 am

Did you get paid in full for the services you provided?

i r giv up
Oct 6, 12 9:23 am

If you used standard AIA contracts, you have the right to all drawings produced. Drawings are an instrument of service not an actual product. Architects don't sell drawings/cad files, they sell design services. CAD files fall under the category of drawings. Under a standardized agreement, the architect has the right to claim back all drawings, keeps all copyright, and can file a claim if they are used in the future.

The architect is being courteous. He doesn't need to offer anything after termination, and he can go ahead and claim back his drawings, even the ones in the hands of the owner and builder.

Standard contracts are pretty awesome.











oh look, the computer nerd read his contracts. teh horrrrrrooorrrrr!

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Oct 6, 12 12:41 pm

Yep, whatever the contract says.  Most likely the architect retains copyright on the design and the builder only has a "one time license" to use the design for this specific project.  So having the cad files without any legal ability to build the design again is pretty worthless.  

Of course, the CAD files can benefit the builder during construction, probably, so they can change everything you've drawn.  You really shouldn't sign a contract requiring you to hand over cad files unless the use of them is very clear.

I was in somewhat similar situation once and had to politely tell the Owner they had no legal right to CAD files. Lots of angry noises came through the other end of the phone during *that* conversation!

Like lr giv up said above: standard contracts are a nice thing.  And very affordable, even if you're not AIA.

Oct 6, 12 2:09 pm

hire a lawyer.

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