Planning Permission

In a recent copyright infringement case, Lennox Estates Ltd v S&W Ventures Ltd, summary judgment was granted in favour of a previous developer of a site in relation to the use of its architect’s drawings.

Lennox Estates, a property developer, had an option to purchase a property subject to planning permission being obtained. They instructed architects to prepare design drawings, and planning permission was obtained based on those drawings. Copyright in the architect’s drawings was assigned to Lennox Estates. However, it did not exercise the option to purchase the property, and it subsequently lapsed. 

copyright infringement proceedings

The owner of the site later sold it to S&W Ventures with the benefit of the planning permission. S&W modified the drawings and varied the planning permission, but in copyright infringement proceedings brought by Lennox Estates, the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court decided that the design of the architect’s plans was overwhelmingly retained and that the similarities were obvious. The elevations and plans were very similar, and there was no real prospect of a defence that the S&W drawings would not infringe the original architect’s drawings. 

The court held that there was no real prospect of the defendant establishing that copyright did not subsist in the drawings or that they had not been copied. The court also held that it was not possible to imply a licence entitling the purchaser in this case to use the drawings used to obtain that planning permission, and the court granted summary judgment in favour of Lennox Estates.

This is of importance to people acquiring a property for development purposes with the benefit of a planning permission. If the purchaser intends to rely on the existing planning consent, it must consider copyright issues and ensure that it has the necessary rights to use the drawings.

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