Interior design

Interior design drawings may be copyrighted

What type of copyrighted work does an interior design drawing belong to? Court decisions in Taiwan have different views on this issue, which is very important because how a work is categorized can lead to different legal consequences, especially the extent of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights. . A recent criminal case reflects the different attitudes towards this issue (2021 Tai Shang Zi No. 3615, Supreme Court).

Background to the case

  1. X was engaged in the brokerage of architectural design projects. X invited Y to bid on an interior design project for Company A’s dormitory. Due to the high costs of the project, Y asked Y1’s design team to collaborate with Y. Y drafted the plans, produced sample houses and tendered under the name of Tomino Engineering.
  2. Company A selected the design plan and model house from Tomino Engineering as the best proposal. During the price negotiation phase, however, Company A feared that Tomino Engineering would not be able to complete the project due to its low amount of capital. X then referred the project to Z, who had no prior knowledge of what happened when the negotiation failed, and provided Z with Tomino’s design plan for reference. Ultimately, Company A awarded the project to Z with reference to Tomino’s sample house set up at the project site. After the project was completed, Y and Y1 found that the dormitory design was nearly identical to their Tomino design plan and the show home they had bid with. They filed a criminal complaint against X for copyright infringement.

The lower court: An interior design drawing is a “graphic work” and its implementation should not be regulated by copyright law.

  1. The Court of First Instance held that interior architectural drawings are graphics with dimensions, specifications or structures, and of a utilitarian nature. If an interior design is “original” (independent creation not copied from others) and “creative” (created with an aesthetic characteristic and expressing the author’s thoughts or feelings), it will fall under the category of ” graphic works” and will be protected by copyright. Act (see IPO October 01, 2018 Zhi-Zhuan-Zi No. 10716009930 Explanation). The above is different from copyrightable “architectural works”, which have artistic characteristics and belong to the core part of the copyright field. The difference between an “interior architectural drawing” as a “graphic work” and an “architectural plan” as an “architectural work” is that a “architecture plan” focuses on the design of the interior of the building, with its core expression being in the “architectural structure” rather than the exterior design of the interior decoration.
  2. The Tomino Sample House is, in fact, a three-dimensional display of Tomino’s design plan. This is a simulated execution of the Tomino Design plan and does not create a new work. Therefore, it is not an independent object protected by copyright (see IPO May 23, 2014 No. 1030523b Email Explanation).
  3. In this case, Z’s reference to the Tomino Design Plan or the Tomino Sample House for Company A’s dormitory project was merely an act of “performance” and not an activity of “reproduction” within the meaning of Article 91 of the copyright law. Therefore, X must be acknowledged.

The Court of Second Instance quashed the judgment and ruled that the interior architecture drawing belongs to an “architectural work” and that the creation of a three-dimensional work in conformity with the interior architecture drawing is an act of infringement of “reproduction” specifically regulated by copyright. Act. This judgment was upheld by the Supreme Court (2021 n° 3615 criminal judgment).

1. The Court of Second Instance ruled that the interior design falls under the category of architectural works based on the following:

(1) An architecture includes not only the structure and exterior appearance of a building, but also the planning and design of its interior and surrounding space. A copyrighted interior design drawing must belong to the category of architectural plans, which fall within the scope of architectural works. The interior design itself is a reconstruction of the interior space of the building, evolving from the decorative part of the architectural design, and must belong to other architectural works. Interior design refers to the planning of any related objects created for the interior of the building, including walls, windows, curtains, doors, finish, materials, lighting, air conditioning, plumbing, environmental control systems, audiovisual equipment, furniture and decorations. .

(2) The court referred to the U.S. copyright law definition of architectural work, which is “the design of a building, architectural plans, or drawing” presented in any tangible medium . The architectural work includes the general form as well as the arrangement and composition of the spaces and elements of the design. All features, including exterior and interior architecture, which reflect the creative ideas and feeling of the architect, must be covered by architectural works.

(3) As Taiwan’s copyright law was amended in 1992, legislators referred to Article 2(1) of the Berne Convection and other international laws in recognizing “works architectural works” as the ninth form of subject matter protected by copyright in Article 5 and added to Article 3 that “the construction of an architectural construction from architectural plans or models” is also an activity of “reproduction” which belongs to the exclusive right of the author. The legislators have explicitly stated that the intention of this addendum is to extend the protection of architectural works.

2. In this case, the Tomino design plan was an interior design plan and should fall under the category of architectural work. The Tomino Sample House was built based on said interior design plan, with a color palette, selection of additional shapes and materials for cabinets, furniture and other hardware, trim and plumbing, etc. , to create a comfortable and beautiful living space, which was not just a mere arrangement of functional furniture, but rather a creation of independent ingenuity and craftsmanship. As such, the Tomino Sample House itself should also be protected as a work of architecture.

3. Infringement of an architectural work may occur whether access to its three-dimensional work is obtained from its two-dimensional or three-dimensional representation. In the present case, X had used Z to build the project based on Tomino Design Plan and Sample House, and therefore had infringed the architectural work of Y by means of reproduction, as stipulated in Article 91( 1) of the Copyright Act.