2.2.5 Buildings

Pursuant to Art. 2 para. 2 (e) CopA, works of architecture (buildings, interior design, staircases, swimming pools, parks, bridges, streets, etc.) can enjoy copyright protection when they are intellectual creations with an individual character and are perceptible to the senses as specified in Art. 2 para. 1 CopA. What is problematic here is the criterion of individuality, as works of architecture are often subject to strict general conditions, e.g. due to legal or technical guidelines, so that the creator of these works has very little creative leeway. Or the architect creates something which is not entirely new in the literal sense of the word but instead only further develops a particular architectonic design vocabulary, for example. In individual cases, a work can thus lack the required individuality and copyright character.

In the words of the Federal Supreme Court: “The architect who designs plans and projects does not have to create anything that is totally new in the process, but may instead make do with a relatively and partly new creation to be able to claim copyright. This can consist of using the findings of his specialist area for a specific problem through personal intellectual effort and finding a solution which meets both the practical needs as well as the aesthetic requirements. Copyright also does not require the architect to provide a completely original service but is instead satisfied with a relatively low level of independent activity. However, the architect is not granted copyright protection when he only provides a technical service by connecting or changing known shapes and lines, or finds no leeway for personal creation under the given circumstances.” (BGE 117 II 466, 468)