How to Patent a Floor Plan

Rich Goldstein

Founder & Principal Patent Attorney
Woman in a red dress holding floor plans in a model house

Do you work in the custom design build industry? Have you experienced the frustration of customers using your house plans without permission? House plans, floor plans, technical drawings and other architectural works are intellectual property. If you created something, you have the right to protect it. If someone takes your designs and tries to pass them off as their own, or uses them without permission, your hard earned work gets taken advantage of. 

To prevent this and protect what you created, it’s important to understand copyright infringement and copyright law. Always take precautions during the design phase–like talking with a copyright law expert in the beginning. At Goldstein Patent Law, our lawyers are skilled in protecting your intellectual property, and will stop at nothing to ensure your rights are upheld and protected at every step. Creating something unique is exciting, but can also be intimidating once you realize how important protection of this idea is.  

If you’re interested in protecting your intellectual property or artistic work, such as a floor plan or a house plan, and you need assistance with copyright law, contact Goldstein Patent Law for a free strategy call today. Our team of experts provide guidance, support, and years of experience  in safeguarding your creative works, sculptural works, musical works, or any other tangible medium.

Contact our team today to learn more about your options and to ensure your designs are legally protected. If you created something great, you as the owner have the right to protect this original design. 

Can You Get Copyright Protection for a Floor Plan?

In the United States, copyright law protects any unique, new expression that you create, such as a floor plan or other technical drawings. By drafting up a unique, original design plan, yes, you automatically own the copyright. However, your plans for your floor plan or technical drawings must be original in order to be eligible for copyright protection. If you own a copyright protection for a floor plan, the copyright notice gives you exclusive rights to copy, produce other plans based on the original drawing, and to actually build the plans. 

Man zoning out while swamped with paperwork in his law office

How Can I Avoid Copyright Infringement of My Floor Plan?

To better protect yourself and your unique idea, there are additional steps you can take under the guidance and supervision of an experienced copyright lawyer. 

First and foremost, be sure to obtain written confirmation from any third-party architects, designers or engineers that were involved in developing the plans that ownership of the plans, including the copyright, is assigned to you. All parties involved with the creation of the house plan must be on the same page about the ownership of this particular design. 

Secondly, consider entering into a Design Agreement with your architectural work customers to establish ownership in the plans. At Goldstein Patent Law, we also suggest copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office, as it notifies others of your valid copyright rights and allows you to take someone to court if someone copies your plans. 

What Is a Copyright Notice?

This is a statement that you include on copies of your work, idea, or other tangible medium to let others know that it is protected by copyright law. It typically consists of the copyright symbol (©), the year in which the original work was first published, your name as the copyright owner, and the phrase “All Rights Reserved.”

A copyright notice serves to inform people that your original work (such as drawings, a house plan, a building plan, musical works or other sculptural works) is legally protected and that they require your permission before distributing or using your work. By including this notice, you can discourage someone from infringing on your work and establish a record of your rights ahead of any potential legal issues.

Is It Okay to Re-Use a Floor Plan, Home Plan, or Any Other Original Plans I Find Online?

If you use someone else’s sculptural works or other architectural plans, that constitutes infringement. It’s safe to use original plans or your original work. If you copy or reproduce a large portion of someone else’s floor plans or architectural plans without receiving their explicit permission, you have potentially violated their copyright. 

Woman in a red dress holding floor plans in a model house

Here’s an example. If you find a floor plan online and choose to build a house using those plans, both the builder and the person who found the plans online could be held accountable for infringing on the copyright. Even if the builder makes some minor changes to the plan, the infringement still rides on how close to the original plan the final result is.

If a court finds that a substantial part of the architectural plan is recognizable in the completed house (substantial similarity), they may consider this infringement. Substantial similarity, for example, may exist if you kept every part of the plan, but only changed the dimensions of the dining room. Talk to a lawyer if you’re concerned about substantial similarity.

How Can I Avoid Copyright Infringement of Other People’s Works?

It’s important to always be aware of copyrights and what is protected by a court under the law. To avoid infringing on other people’s protected works, ask your customers where they got their floor plans or architectural plans from, and obtain written confirmation of their rights. It’s very important that you use caution if you choose to use existing plans. Talk to a lawyer about infringement and registered copyrights.

A copyright notice can deter unauthorized use and provide important protection for your idea–but before you receive copyright protection, you need to discuss these original plans with a lawyer from Goldstein Patent Law.

What Are the Limitations of Valid Copyright Protection for Sculptural Works, Floor Plans, Home Plans, and Other Building Plans?

It’s important to learn the term “merger doctrine.” According to the United States Supreme Court and federal court, the merger doctrine establishes that when there are only a few possible ways to express an idea or fact, giving exclusive ownership of those expressions would more or less give copyright protection to a non-copyrightable idea or fact. In cases like this where the merger doctrine applies, there is no copyright in the expression.

Copyright laws are complex. Under copyright law, works of authorship are protected, but the ideas baked into those works are not. The US Supreme Court, in the 2021 case of Golan v. Holder clarified that copyright protection does not extend to ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, or discoveries, regardless of how they are described or embodied in some kind of work.

An exhausted woman overseeing paperwork in her law office

In summary, copyright registration protects the specific expression of an idea, but underlying ideas are public domain. For example, you can get valid copyright for architectural plans, but not for the concept of a dining room or the concert of house plans in general.

What Is the Copyright Act?

The Copyright Act refers to the legislation that governs copyright law in a particular jurisdiction (state). In the United States, the Copyright Act is a federal law that gives legal protection to original works. It gives exclusive rights to creators and copyright owners, allowing them to manage and control the reproduction and distribution of their creative works. This act outlines the rights and limitations related to copyrighted works, the length and duration of copyright protection, and the process for registration.

How Can a Copyright Law Attorney Help Me Protect My Floor Plans From Copyright Infringement?

Getting copyright protection is crucial. If you receive copyright protection for a tangible medium such as a building plan or another kind of original work, no one else is permitted to infringe upon your original design. Statutory damages can be awarded for each individual copyrightable work that gets infringed upon. With the help of an intellectual protection lawyer, you as the copyright owner can get statutory damages for this infringement. Our lawyers can help establish copyright infringement on your behalf.

If you have yet to receive copyright protection, do so as soon possible to avoid copyright infringement. Copyright protection and copyright law are complex. Don’t run the risk of your intellectual property suffering copyright infringement.

Consult with the lawyers at Goldstein Patent Law today to learn more about how we establish copyright infringement. We’ll help you work toward getting copyright protection from the copyright office of the federal court for your architectural work, floor plans, musical works, sculptural works, or other intellectual property

Call Goldstein Patent Law today for a free strategy call about registered copyrights for your building plans or other big ideas.

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