Buildings and property developments increasingly have unique
personalities and commonly are given a quirky name or title as part
of their address. They can also have distinct and instantaneously
recognisable design features. Some even become iconic such as the
Gherkin and the Shard in London. Nick names are also common.
This means that they can be viewed by 3rd parties as desirable
images to be associated with when marketing a different product or
service. If attempts to make such associations are left
uncontrolled they can cause confusion and potentially damage what
might be a prestigious and even iconic image – for example if
the goods and services which are linked to the building name or
image are of poor quality. It can therefore be important right at
the start to capture and protect the intellectual property which
exists in and around the real estate concerned.
If this is done effectively not only will it prevent such damage
but it can also allow exploitation of these intangible assets and
secure additional revenue by way of licensing fees. This means too
that the portfolio value of the property will be enhanced by the
value of the IP concerned.
There are a variety of IP vehicles which can be used to achieve
these goals. However each building or development will differ in
relation to the type of protection it can obtain or rely on to do
this. Here are some of the main considerations that any property
owner should consider in planning to protect and exploit its
The name or nick name of the building – or indeed
associated brand logos – can often be protected by a trade
mark registration. For example the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe,
Trump Towers, Canary Wharf, the Hydro, the Gherkin, the
Shard......are only a few.
Such protection should be considered even when deciding to come
up with a catchy name in the first place. Not only could there be
pre-existing trade mark rights that could present difficulties in
breaching 3rd party IPRS but there could be problems in obtaining a
registration if the name chosen is not for example sufficiently
distinctive to qualify for protection. Registered trademarks will
also tend to be more attractive to 3rd party investors /purchasers
of the property concerned.
The shape of a building could also potentially be trademarked
but this is still a relatively new area and the hurdles can be
Copyright in the plans for the building(s) and in the buildings
There will be copyright arising automatically but it will be
with the architect unless they have assigned it on to the owner or
are an employee of the owner. This should be thought about at the
start and assignation obtained if possible to secure the copyright
which will last for the life of the architect plus 70 years.
Registered and unregistered design rights can also be an option
for particular features. This is a complex area however and the
building design would need to be novel and have individual
character to qualify for registered design.
Buildings and IPRs?
The value there can be in the IP in the various features of a
building or development whether commercial or residential is
becoming more important and thought should be given to this by all
property developers, owners and investors from the outset of their
planning. Not only can it add to the value of the real estate but
merchandising rights can be very valuable. Such IP can thus be
effectively exploited financially by way of licensing out the IP in
a controlled way in relation to 3rd party products and
Why not think ahead and secure the IP and protect and gain
maximum financial reward for the investment made?
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The focus on the product being obvious or anticipated as at a certain date provides powerful protection and commercial certainty without conflicting with a patentee's ability to obtain patent protection.
The High Court considered a claim by Azumi, the owner of high-end Japanese restaurant Zuma against Zuma's Choice Pet Products Limited (ZCPP) and its director Zoe Vanderbilt for trade mark infringement.
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