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Yachts are also protected by copyright – by Gilberto Cavagna

boat yacht design copyright

yacht design copyright“Yachts are also protected by copyright as drawings and works of architecture” – curated by Gilberto Cavagna, associate partner of Andersen.

Reflections of these days

The 60th edition of the Boat Show kicks off in Genoa on October 1st; an important signal that the country is restarting, in a sector that has always represented an important source of pride (and income) for Italy and which seems to have withstood the storm of Covid19.

Italy holds a front row seat among the major international players and its boats are admired (and recognized) in every port. This is also due to the architects and designers who designed them, often real arch-stars recognized as such not only by the trade press and enthusiasts, but also by the judges.

The case

In fact, “there is no reason to recognize copyright protection for an architect who designs a villa and not for his colleague who designs a yacht.

This was stated by the Court of Genoa, following the outcome of the proceedings brought by a well-known boat building company against another competing company and concerning the violation of the rules on competition and, precisely, right author (ordinance of 27 June 2018).

The defendant company, on the other hand, argued that the protection provided for architectural works for yachts could not be invoked as they were not real estate but goods that, intended for mass production, would find protection as works of industrial design.

A small but important difference

The different classification is not insignificant because, for the law of 22 April 1941 n. 633 and following mod. (the “Author Law”), architectural designs and works benefit from protection – pursuant to art. 5 co. 5 Author Law – in the presence of a limited creative character, while for the authorial protection of design works it is required – pursuant to art. 2 co. 10 Author’s Law – the existence of even a higher “artistic value” (with all the difficulties of proving the presence of this requirement).

The traditional definition of architecture reported in dictionaries mostly refers to buildings (for example the one contained in the Treccani Dictionary: “Architecture is both the art and the technique of building buildings“).

Taking note, the Court nevertheless observed that “in the common feeling and in modern theoretical reflection, this restrictive notion has been abandoned in favor of a broader vision, according to which architecture is the art of organizing the spaces where human life is conducted” and it is to such a notion of architecture that we must (now) refer to the application of the protection of copyright, also “because it is a vision closer to the current social and economic development”.

The Court decision

For the Court, “the fact that the work is intended to accommodate the primary activities of man is decisive: resting, studying or working, preparing and eating meals, spending time with friends and relatives.

These activities are intended to take place not only in a house but also – all or almost – in a boat, in which there are bedrooms, kitchen area, toilet and living room, incompatible instead with other environments which, precisely for this reason , they cannot be defined in “architectural” terms, like the passenger compartment of a car ”.

After all, many of the most renowned architects have ventured into their careers in the design of boats, and vessels can also be real homes, for example the barges on the rivers known to the European tradition of different countries.

Having also brought the boats back to the broader notion of architecture, and its related protection, the Court highlighted how these works by definition have a particular nature, as they are substantiated in external acts and respond first of all to specific functions.

The Author Law

In order to be protected by the Author Law (as well as the common requirement of creativity provided for the protection of all intellectual works), it is therefore “necessary that they also have aesthetic value in the forms, with this being understood that the formal result it must not be required by the solution of a technical-functional problem”

and it is therefore necessary to verify in practice “whether the aesthetics of the design choices is completely detached from the technical purpose that those same choices pursue“.

The proof of creativity must be provided by those who claim to have the right to protection of copyright, also in the light of the solutions existing on the market, highlighting in the case the indicative elements capable, due to their intrinsic characteristics, to create a non-functional form for the use for which a yacht is specifically intended.



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