“Filtering” Copyright Infringement Analysis in Architectural Works

This Note discusses a significant, yet seldom noticed, circuit split concerning which substantial-similarity test properly protects architectural works—a look-and-feel test, a compilation test, or the Altai test? This split has the potential to create radically different levels of protection for similar sets of architectural works. This Note argues that the primary difference among the different circuits and their treatment of the issue is how aggressively each court “filters” out copyright-unprotected elements. In making this argument, this Note discusses the legislative history of copyright law and “architectural works,” and examines the split among three different circuit courts. Ultimately, this Note suggests that courts apply the Second Circuit’s Altai test, administering a careful analysis to “filter” out unoriginal, standard elements of an architectural work that do not deserve copyright protection.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.