Developers should consider copyright in plans
How far can a developer use plans that are freely available on the local authority’s planning portal but not owned, or commissioned, by the developer itself? Darren Millis, Commercial Property Partner explains more.
A recent High Court case Signature Realty Ltd v Fortis Developments Ltd has reminded developers of the need to look very carefully at the issue of the ownership of copyright in plans. Developers will use the plans when building out as planning permissions benefit the land but the plans that form part of the planning application, which leads to the grant of the planning permission do not automatically follow.
In this case the High Court ordered the developer to pay damages for infringing copyright in plans where the developer had purchased the land from the original owner, who was responsible for commissioning the plans, and had gone on to use those plans to build out the new development. The judgment made it clear that it was extremely difficult to define the dividing line between benefit obtained from the planning permission and the benefit obtained from the drawings although it was clear some benefit had been obtained from the copyrighted plans in this case.
The lesson is clear: when seeking to purchase land for development make an assessment whether copyright in the plans and drawings needs to be transferred at the same time as the planning permission does not necessarily transfer that right.