Image above, Reg. No. 4277913 (claiming color)
Image below, Reg. No. 4277914 (not claiming color)
While most architectural works don’t have the notoriety and consumer association necessary to obtain federal trademark protection, architects have long relied on copyright and design patents to protect their creations. Since 1990 when “architectural works” were first incorporated into our federal copyright regime, much has been written about its use and impact. Yet few architects have stopped to consider the role of design patents.
But design patents aren’t new. Architects in the US have relied on them for over a century to protect new, original, and ornamental designs for any article of manufacture. For example, Frank Lloyd Wright was granted numerous design patents on everything from chairs to desk and home designs.
Design Patent No. D114204 (granted April 11, 1939)
Design Patent No. D149076 (granted March 23, 1948)
And for modern examples, you don’t have to look any further than Apple. They have not only trademarked aspects of their store layout, but they were granted design patents for their cylindrical glass storefront and staircase designs too.
Shanghai Storefront (Flickr) & Design Patent No. D656240 (granted March 20, 2012)
London Retail Store (Flickr) & Design Patent No. D478999 (granted August 26, 2003)
Despite their widespread use, most architects know remarkably little about the basics of design law. In an effort to help educate designers and to better understand how people’s backgrounds effect the application of design laws, the Max Planck Institute could use your help with a new study that it is conducting. The project revolves around a series of brief hypothetical juror scenarios where you are asked to apply one of these legal standards. Don’t worry, they’re quick and easy to follow. At the end of the survey, they email you the results so that you can see how you compared to the actual court outcomes, and they even provide you with a lot resources to learn more about other important aspects of design law (e.g., what sorts of things can be patented and what does it mean to infringe another protected design).
Regardless of your feelings towards intellectual property protection in this area, you should find the study fun and helpful. Most importantly, all of the money generated by the study is being donated to design charities.
There are only a few days left.
This article was submitted by the Max Planck Institute, as part of a project intended to provide insight into how people's backgrounds affect the application of creativity requirements in design law.