Property developer in breach of copyright for using architects’ drawings

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A property developer has been found guilty of copyright infringement after using architects’ drawings previously prepared for a site it had acquired.

Lennox Estates acquired an option to buy and develop a site owned by Cherubond Ltd in 2016. It appointed Matthew Allchurch Architects to design a residential and office development and used the drawings to secure planning permission for the site.

Following the downturn in the property market, Lennox let the option to buy the land lapse, so in 2020 Cherubond sold the site, with planning permission and a set of drawings based on Matthew Allchurch’s plans, to S&W Ventures.

S&W Ventures wanted to make some changes to vary the planning permission and appointed Places Architects to draw up revised plans. It supplied Places with the drawings from Cherubond. S&W Ventures started work on the site using the Places drawings.

In 2021 Lennox Estates started a copyright infringement claim against S&W Ventures alleging the drawings it was using were copied from the original Matthew Allchurch Architects’ drawings.

The judge ruled that the original Matthew Allchurch drawings had copyright protection as they had not been copied from the buildings already on the site. He agreed that the Places drawings had been substantially copied from the original drawings and granted summary judgement to Lennox Estates.

James Burgoyne of Brunel Professions said “This is a timely reminder for property purchasers to make sure that they acquire the copyright to any architects’ drawings before using them to market or develop a site. It is all too easy to assume that purchase of a site with planning permission and completed drawings gives a subsequent owner the right to use the drawings – but it is wise to check that licences to use the drawings have been assigned.”

Reports about the case have been published by D Young & Co, Practical Law Construction Blog and DAC Beachcroft.

Professionalindemnity.com is owned by Brunel Professions, which is a leading professional indemnity insurance broker in the UK. Click here to get a quote or call 0345 450 1074 to speak to a broker.

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