(the original version of this post is published on Diritto24)

With a recent order issued at the end of preliminary appeal proceedings (Docket no. 2236/2018), the Venice IP Court granted copyright protection to the layout and interior design of a yacht, in favour of the architect who conceived them.

The dispute was started by Italian architect Tiberio Cerato against a well-known yacht company, which had built and sold to the ship owner the fiberglass hull starting from which the architect had taken care of the design and construction of all the layouts, interiors and furnishings. When the work was finished, the company published the images and a video portraying the details of the yacht’s interior on its website and Vimeo channel, also allowing it to be published on YouTube, without requiring the architect’s authorisation or crediting his name as a designer, instead indicating itself and its legal representative as the responsible for styling and interior design. The architect then took legal action to obtain an injunction against the counterparty for infringement of his copyrights, pursuant to article 2 no. 5 of the Italian Copyright Law (ICL).

After an initial dismissal of the claim, the order fully accepted Mr Cerato’s appeal, noting that “the work in question meets the necessary requirements of creativity and originality that entitles it to the protection granted by article 2 ICL“. The Judges indicated as the elements that led to this conclusion, among other things, the personal re-elaboration and organisation of the interior spaces by the architect, the use of airy and essential lines, the particular elaboration of the deck house (able to disappear under the floor without leaving any trace), the particular care with which the interior furnishings were designed and combined, and the originality of the lighting.

In this context, the Court noted, it is clear “the unlawfulness of the company’s conduct, which is given even by the mere publishing on its website the design solutions conceived by architect Cerato without indicating the author of the work“.

The Court also considered irrelevant the company’s defence, according to which the publication was due to a mere mistake: “even if proven, this circumstance would not exclude the responsibility, at least by negligence, of the defendant, which, moreover, had been requested by the petitioner to remove the image from its website, and had therefore been put in the position to verify the existence of the illicit publication and to remove it“.

In accepting the architect’s defence, the Court also sanctioned the publication of the video on YouTube, although it occurred on a channel not directly related to the company: “the video in question contains multiple references to the company, hence, even in case the video was published by a third party, the defendant, being the owner of the images, could well act to obtain the removal of the same, sending a cease and desist letter to the author of the publication or submitting a notice to the manager of the website, based on the methods published therein“.

In light of the above, the Judges condemned the company to refrain from “publishing on any means of commercial communication, including brochures, websites, Vimeo and YouTube, any images, drawings and videos relating to the work created by architect Cerato“, setting a penalty of 1000 euros for each day of breach of the injunction and for any means by which the breach should be carried out. The company was also ordered to publish the order in the magazine “Nautica”, and to pay the architect’s legal fees.