Cartoon suggesting the need for intellectual property protection

As an interior designer keen on standing out in the crowd, you must work extra hard to create designs that keep clients trooping to your business. Unfortunately, most interior designers lose much of what is rightfully theirs to copycats. The creation of interior designs, however, is a work of art under the same protections as any other art form. While it is almost impossible to entirely eliminate the possibility of having your ideas plagiarized, you could do a few things to protect your interior design intellectual property.

This guide looks into some of the ways that can help.

Copyright symbol suggesting how to protect intellectual property

Copyright Registration

Copyright applies by default when a creator generates a unique work of art. This means you could sue a person or an entity for reproducing your work without your consent, even if you haven’t registered the copyright for the work.

However, navigating a dispute is much easier if you have a copyright certificate for your work. You can use the © symbol for your copyrighted designs to discourage people from plagiarizing your copyrighted work. Copyrights for all forms of art extend through the author’s life plus 70 years from the date of their death in the U.S, or 50 years in Canada.

However, if a person is using your copyrighted work for education, critique or news purposes, they are not infringing on your copyrights.

Trademark symbol as a way to protect interior design intellectual property

Trademark Registration

When running your interior design business, you must treat your trademarks as part of your intellectual property that needs protection. Registering your trademarks helps protect your brand elements that distinguish your product from others in the market.

Elements you could register as trademarks include graphics, shapes, words, colors, fonts, or a combination of any of these. Registering your trademarks gives you an exclusive right to profit from your interior design creations, and the power to determine who can and cannot profit from them.

Also, you get the right to sue any person or entity that uses them without your consent. Both under U.S. IP laws and Canadian IP laws, a registered trademark lasts 10 years and is renewable at the expiry of the 10-year window. Some interim maintenance is required, such as filing an affidavit that states the trademark is still in use in the U.S. after 5 years, or showing evidence of use in Canada after as little as 3 years.

Interior design work on paper

Design Registration

If any aspect of your interior design is new, unique and original in its appearance, shape or use, you should consider industrial design registration. Once you successfully register your designs, you get the same rights to your intellectual property as you would after registering your trademarks.

 In the U.S., the registration of an application takes between 1-3 years, and the design registration has a term of 15 years from the date of issuance. In Canada, protections under industrial design registration run for 10 years from its registration or 15 years from the day an application to register the design was filled. If you want a better insight into design registration, this guide on the basics of industrial design is a good read for you. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office is mandated to register all forms of intellectual property. While the registration process may be straightforward on paper, it could get tricky, so working with an intellectual property lawyer would be a good idea.

Watermarked picture as a way to protect the work of the designer

Watermarking Your Work

Traditionally, interior designers would have to carry physical copies of their designs when making a presentation. Today, sharing images and drawings happens mainly over the internet.

Unfortunately, sharing images over the internet could mean the recipient could share your work with anybody, including your competitors.

Therefore, it is a good idea to watermark your designs to ensure that nobody else could pass the work off as theirs. Also, you may consider adding a text to your work declaring your copyright to the images shared and letting the recipients know that you would file a lawsuit for an infringement of your copyrights.

If an element of your invention is trademarked, you may also want to use the ® sign to indicate that it is a registered trademark. Marking your registered items is not mandatory, so a person will be guilty of infringing on your rights even if you did not expressly indicate that your interior design intellectual property rights are protected.

Watermarked material board for restaurant

If you are thinking to open a new business or are in the process of rebranding and remodeling your existing business, contact us to get a free consultation from Mindful Design Consulting. Click HERE to price your project design.

Also, take a look at the “Branding By Interior” e-book, the only book written on this subject at this time. It brings insight into how you can turn your business into a market-dominating competitor by using human cognitive responses.

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