The Taj Mahal is a breathtaking architectural splendour. One look at its poor imitation in Aurangabad, the Bibi Ka Maqbara, catapults the beauty of the Taj to greater heights. This is pretty much the same story every time you look at imitations of popular buildings such as the Malaysian Towers or the Tian’anmen Rostrum. In an age when inventors have begun protecting their inventions rigorously, the architecture industry is catching up with the trend, albeit very slowly. In our two-part series, we will take you through the world patenting trends, reasons to patent architectural inventions and introduce you to five of the most wonderful architecture patents in the world.
Architectural splendours are not just limited to the Seven Wonders of the World. Many architects today are donning the creative hat and designing fabulous buildings that are not just spacious, but adhere to ‘green rules’ as well. From Greenfield airports to energy self-sufficient commercial structures, architectural marvels are increasing in number. However, the patent world barely has any records of patented architecture.
Da Vinci, Picasso and Michelangelo are stalwarts in their own right. Their paintings and sculptures are unique and stand testimony to their talent. However, their style, themes and designs have been replicated over and over again over the years by thousands and in varying degrees. If their work was patent protected, would it create a barrier against creative progress? Well, this is a question that architects face. When it comes to structural systems, design details, concepts and material used in an architectural design it becomes difficult to pin point a copyright infringement. This is possibly where a utility patent can help protect the design invention better.
While a utility patent covers the invention of a device or process, a design patent solely protects the ornamental features of functional articles such as buildings. Some architects may resort to copyrights, but a copyright is a weaker shield for an architectural design as it does not prohibit anyone from coming up with an identical design. A design patent, on the other hand, arms the patent holder to issue injunctions and demand damages in case the patented design is infringed upon.
Designs that wear the shield
The trend to patent architectural designs is yet to catch up. However some leading corporations such as Apple, Proto Homes, Nomadic Comfort, Prescient and Quatro Houses have taken the lead to patent their unique architectural designs.
The graph below charts the number of patents approved across Japan, USA and Europe.
While the numbers have dwindled in Japan during this 15-year period, the US Patent Office has witnesses an encouraging increase in the number of architectural patents for fixed constructions, while the numbers in Europe have been running on a stable line.
US opens its doors wide
In a bid to encourage utility patents in the architecture industry, the USPTO designated Class 52 to include static structure utility patents. Today, there are at least 9,057 utility patents filed under Class 52 that include designs of building components such as roofing, flooring, foundation material, walls, and also complete building designs of stadiums, auditoriums and even skating rinks. Besides, the Class D52 of the USPTO holds vital patents that protect building units and construction elements like a shield.
Why protect your architectural marvels?
Be it a utility patent or a design patent, filing for one must be weighed carefully to align with the overall objective of the engineering firm. It is an open secret that engineering firms are plagued by the demands of the RFP-low bidder-engineering as a commodity model. However, there is a bounden right to protect your structural design and any other innovative architectural work, including material composition, processes and apparatus that will hold tangible value for a firm’s business and differentiate it.
To be continued…
(Featured image source: https://pixabay.com/p-1043518/?no_redirect)