2.2.4 Technical or scientific works

Pursuant to Art. 2 para. 2 (d) CopA, works with scientific or technical content such as drawings, plans, maps or plastic representations can enjoy copyright protection if they are intellectual creations with an individual character and are perceptible to the senses (i.e. fulfil the conditions to be considered a work).

However, this does not include scientific linguistic works (e.g. PhD theses, specialist articles, etc.). They fall under the category of “linguistic works” as specified in Art. 2 para. 2 (a) CopA. However, in practice, it does not matter under which category the respective work falls. It only depends on whether the work fulfils the afore-mentioned conditions. In Art. 2 para. 2 (d) CopA, technical and scientific drawings, plans, maps or three-dimensional renditions are listed as examples (e.g. blueprints, topographical maps, patterns, models of buildings, etc.) to show that these works can also be protected.

Nevertheless, care should be taken despite the precise list given: the work in question is not always protected by copyright. The question of individuality can be problematic as the creators of technical and scientific works have little room for creativity when they are bound to particular guidelines or (natural) features (e.g. geologists who want to map specific geographical characteristics in a region). However, a less strict benchmark must be set here – the work can already be highly individual simply due to the way it is depicted (e.g. work with colours) and the choice of content (e.g. map without country borders).

The creative quality can also be problematic in individual cases, in particular when scientific information alone is listed (e.g. geographical data, such as the length of a river and the height of a mountain). As in the case of the “scientific idea”, scientific or technical findings are not protected. However, the implementation and form of presentation, the method of data selection and the choice of content can be protected when it is sufficiently original and individual.


2.2.4-1 Architecture students have been asked to design a three-dimensional model of a building. The lecturer gives them guidelines on the materials, the size and the individual features the building needs to have. Is the model a copyright protected work?

Basically, three-dimensional representations with scientific or technical content are protected pursuant to Art. 2 para. 2 (d) CopA. However, they must also be creative works with an individual character. When all criteria for the creation of the model are specified by the university lecturer, as in this case, then the personal creativity or the individuality of the students is questionable. Nevertheless, lower benchmarks must be set – even when there is limited creative leeway, small details which really stand out from the rest can give products sufficient individual character.

2.2.4-2 A research project develops a database with scientifically evaluated geographical data; it can be operated interactively by simulating different conditions and graphically displaying the results. Do aspects of copyright law have to be considered?

Here it is important to make a distinction – the individual pieces of geographical data are not protected, even if they fall under the work category “works with scientific content” (Art. 2 para. 2 (d) CopA) at first glance. During the compilation of the geographical data, the required individuality is actually missing because it is based on scientific findings.However, the database is protected as a collection pursuant to Art. 4 CopA. Due to its structure and its depiction with interactive elements, it is considered to be sufficiently creative and original.