In a recent case, an International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) member faced legal action for unwittingly infringing design copyright. The member, a naval architect, was asked by a customer to provide final designs and specifications for a workboat based on existing plans supplied by them. As the customer’s stamp was clearly shown on the plans, the naval architect assumed that the customer retained ownership.
Once designed, the workboat was promoted in the press. It was seen by another naval architect who recognised the design as their own and quickly issued a “cease and desist” letter against the ITIC member. It soon became apparent that the customer had placed its own stamp over the details of the original naval architect.
Although the ITIC member had made significant design and specifications amendments to the original plans a copyright barrister – engaged by ITIC – concluded that these were really only refinements and had not adapted the design sufficiently from the original. The only safe and risk-free solution was to discontinue the project in its current form. The ITIC member redesigned the workboat from scratch and ITIC’s copyright expert deemed the new design to be completely original. The workboat has now been built and is fully operational.
ITIC’s action prevented its member from being pursued for breach of copyright and urges all naval architects to ensure they have the right to use or modify plans supplied to them by a third-party.