I want to share these plans.

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Boreas, Jan 15, 2007.


What's your opinion about sharing boat plans?

Poll closed Mar 16, 2007.
  1. Great!!! Terrific!!!. I'd love it!.

    8 vote(s)
  2. I don't care.

    4 vote(s)
  3. I wouldn't do it.

    15 vote(s)
  1. ert
    Joined: Apr 2020
    Posts: 1
    Likes: 0, Points: 1
    Location: Annapolis, MD

    ert New Member

    I know this is a very old thread, but it came up in my Google search results and didn't seem to offer much in terms of what can you share and what you can't, so I thought I'd add to it in case anyone else finds it.

    The question of what is copyrighted is complicated, especially with newer designs. However, for anything published in the United States the maximum total term of copyright protection for works already protected before January 1, 1978 is 95 years. So as of 2020 anything published in the United States before 1925 is in the public domain and has no copyright restrictions.

    See https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ15a.pdf
  2. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
    Posts: 15,151
    Likes: 910, Points: 123, Legacy Rep: 2031
    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    The artwork is copyrighted. However, the lines (or design) was not Chapelle's. I doubt anybody alive knows who built the original.

  3. DCockey
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 4,918
    Likes: 452, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1485
    Location: Midcoast Maine

    DCockey Senior Member

    I have previously posted this about various forms of intellectual rights protection in the US.
    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and the information below is not intended as legal advice. The information below are based on research into United States law.

    Utility Patent 20 years. Must be applied for and granted. Most boat designs and elements of boat designs don’t qualify for a utility patent because they don’t meet the required conditions. Validity of a patent is only established through litigation. After 20 years the contents of a utility patent are public domain.

    Design Patent 14 years. Must be applied for and granted. Protects only the original aspects of the appearance and ornamentation of an object, not it’s functional aspects or construction. Validity of a patent is only established through litigation. After 14 years the contents of a design patent are public domain.

    Vessel Hull Design Protection Act 10 years. Registration must be applied for and approved . Designs which are covered by a design patent are not eligible for VHDPA registration. Covers the shape and the hull and deck if they are sufficiently unique. “Protection is afforded only to vessel hull designs embodied in actual vessel hulls that are publicly exhibited, publicly distributed, or offered for sale or sold to the public on or after October 28, 1998.” Application for registration has to be made within two years of the first public showing of the hull. Once the 10 year term expires the design is in the public domain.

    Copyright Term varies depending on when the work was created, and for works created before 1978 if and when the copyright was registered. For more information see "Duration of Copyright https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ15a.pdf Works created after 1977 do not require registration or notice. Terms for works which qualify for copyright are very long. In general copyright applies to “original works of authorship”. Artwork is covered by copyright to the extent it is non-functional. Functional objects are not covered by copyright. Boat plans which are original may be covered by copyright and can’t be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner (other than within the fair use exemption). However the knowledge in the plans isn’t covered so boats can be built from copyright plans without infringing on the copyright. The "First sale doctrine" allows someone who has purchased a copy of a item subject to copyright to sell that copy of the item, but not to create additional copies of the item for sale.

    Trademark Indefinite. “A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” The name of a boat design such as “Laser” or “Sunfish”, or of a manufacturer such as “Benateau” may be a trademark and if so can only be used by the trademark owner. However, a trademark is not a design so ownership of a trademark does not confer any rights to a particular design.

    Trade Dress Indefinite. Trade dress are the unique, visual, generally non-functional elements of a product (or its packaging which is unlikely to apply to a boat) which are identified with its source. Once rights to a trade dress are established they can last indefinitely. Registration is not required though there are advantages to registering a trade dress. I assume that similar to a trademark, trade dress has to be defended or rights to it may be lost. Trade dress appears to have been the primary basis of Hinckley’s claims concerning its “picnic boat” designs. Only certain elements of a boat’s design could constitute trade dress.

    License Agreements and Contracts Term depends on the agreement. Private agreements only enforceable by one of the parties which entered into the agreement. An example would be a license agreement between a designer and a builder under which the designer agrees to furnish the builder with plans for a boat and the builder agrees to pay a fee, build only one boat from the plans, and not allow anyone else to build a boat from the plans. Presumably this type of agreement is what is meant by statements such as “buying a set of plans only allows one boat to be built”. A license agreement can also include a requirement that the plans cannot be transferred to another party without their agreement to the license terms. Someone who is not a party to the license agreement or contract cannot be forced to abide by its terms, nor can they require the parties to the agreement to behave in a certain manner. Museums and others who own plans can require agreement to a license agreement which may restrict building of boats to the plans as a condition of purchasing copies of the plans. However owner of plans cannot restrict the building of boats of the designs by parties who did not agree to the license conditions.

    David Cockey

    Rockport, Maine

    7 December 2010

    Revised 31 March 2011

    Revised 10 September 2018

    Revised 28 January 2019
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