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The State of California has recently recognized the intellectual property rights of design professionals, and made it easier for architects or engineers to protect the ideas they express in design documents.

Assembly Bill (AB) 630 (Chapter 453, Statutes of 2013) took effect January 1, 2014, and provides that no individual may use an architect's instruments of service without the consent of the architect in a written contract, written agreement, or written license specifically authorizing that use. The bill added section 5536.4 to the Business and Professions Code (BPC) and was signed by Governor Brown on October 1, 2013.

Business and Professions Code Section 5536.4 states:

(a)  No person may use an architect’s instruments of service, as those professional services are described in paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 5500.1, without the consent of the architect in a written contract, written agreement, or written license specifically authorizing that use.

(b) An architect shall not unreasonably withhold consent to use his or her instruments of service from a person for whom the architect provided the services. An architect may reasonably withhold consent to use the instruments of service for cause, including, but not limited to, lack of full payment for services provided or failure to fulfill the conditions of a written contract.

In addition to putting a copyright notice on the drawings and other documents that an architect creates when performing work for clients, the architect should use language similar to the statute in his or her contracts with clients.

Call or email me if you have any questions about this important new law.